Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hymn for Her

The Magic Numbers @ Mercury Lounge 11/27/05
I slept on tickets for their sold-out show the next night at Bowery Ballroom, so when this "secret" (if it was so "secret", how come there were tickets sold on Ticketweb until the day of the show; not that I'm complaining, mind you, since I was able to get tickets that way, but I'm just saying) show was announced a few weeks ago, I got tickets right away.

And luckily, the band didn't disappoint. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to make it down to the venue in time because of some home improvement stuff that I was doing earlier (mad props to Sara for helping me out BTW), I missed opener David Kitt (who's touring with them on the remainder of their current U.S. tour) and right after I walked in the door and got a beer, The Magic Numbers went on. Good timing, huh? Anyway, they played for about an hour and no encore (it doesn't make sense to do one there anyway since there's no backstage area much like Maxwells). They played most of their excellent debut album, including "Mornings Eleven", "Love Me Like You", "Don't Give Up the Fight" and my favorite, the heart-wrenching "I See You, You See Me". Despite their sad lyrics, they give off such a great "good-time" vibe that's inescapable. As I've noted before, they're obviously influenced by a lot of late '60s West Coast stuff (think The Mamas and Papas, Buffalo Springfield and the like and you'll be somewhat close), but their '60s-isms are filtered through more modern UK acts like Teenage Fanclub and the like. Furthermore, their stage presence has improved tremendously since I saw them back in March (it was their 1st U.S. show ever) and they did a great version of Beyonce's smash hit "Crazy in Love", complete with audience sing-a-long, clapping and the like. In other words, it was a great time. If they came to your town, go see them.

PREVIOUSLY: My review of The Magic Numbers @ Sin-E back in March and some other stuff

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Big Takeover

This is just a note to inform all of you reading this that you can now also read my column on The Big Takeover's newly redesigned website. You can see my 1st column and my Top 10 list if you click here. Enjoy!

A Strange Geometry

The Clientele with Annie Hayden @ The Knitting Factory 11/23/05
Annie Hayden, formerly of the '90s Jersey City band Spent, opened the show with a 30-minute set of delicately strummed and played indie-pop that I imagine isn't too far from the sound of her old band (though I'm unfamiliar with their music, so I can't vouch for that statement). The between song banter was funny and during one break, Alisdair from The Clientele brought her flowers to culminate the end of their almost 2-month long tour together, which was a really sweet gesture.

I'd never seen The Clientele before, but I'd heard that they were similar live to what their records sound like. It turns out that this is only somewhat true. The first thing you notice is the sparseness of their sound. They're a 3-piece led by the aforementioned singer/guitarist/songwriter Alisdair MacLean and another thing I noticed since I was standing close to the front was the amount of effects pedals that he used. This created a mesmerizing sea of reverb that fortunately didn't overwhelm the vocals or the rhythm section but on the plus side added to the beauty of his playing. And beautiful it was! A revelation to me was how absolutely amazing of a guitar playing Alasdair is, which is something that I don't usually see mentioned when I read reviews of their albums or live shows. Instead of strumming rhythmic chords, he picks at the guitar in a manner almost similar to what a bluegrass guitarist would do. I don't know if he would appreciate the comparison, but though they sound totally different, it actually reminded me in some ways of Lindsey Buckingham's playing style. Overall, though, the sound is more akin to indie legends like Galaxie 500 (seeing them live, the similarities are even more apparent since The Clientele is a 3-piece and because of the reverb and the hazy, droning nature of their sound), The Church, The Go-Betweens and even occasionally Robyn Hitchcock. In other words, it was a slow, dream-pop haze that was enrapturing and even trance-inducing. Although they stand still and don't really put on a "show", I still recommend seeing them highly.

A couple of really funny things happened during their set. Someone requested the song "Losing Haringey" (a spoken word monologue where the band just plays an instrumental track over it), so Alisdair invited said person to come up on stage and recite the lyrics (luckily they had a print-out of the lyrics perhaps with this in mind), so he did to rapturous applause. Also, their final song was an acoustic-guitar led version of Television Personalities' "A Picture of Dorian Gray", a song which I also saw The Futureheads cover last year at Maxwells. Anyone someone yelled out "who's Dorian Gray" when Alisdair introduced the song, but then someone else said "he's a fag" after his explanation (I can only hope the heckler in question was being ironic; douchebag).

I bought their tour-only CD of their early recordings (It's Art Dad) after the gig and I got a chance to speak briefly with Alisdair and have him sign my copy. Unfortunately no one seemed to have a permanent marker so he used a pen and the ink is a bit runny, but I can't really complain. Once I set up my new printer/scanner/copier that came with the new computer I bought last week, maybe I'll be able to scan the image for all of you to see.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Area (new Futureheads single)

You can stream the video for the new Futureheads tune "Area" here. Enjoy! The song's terrific. It slows down the pace a bit, at least compared to most of the breackneck-speed debut album, though it's even more Jam-like than some of the songs on that album, reminding me a lot of All Mod Cons, but that's a really good thing.

Dap Dippin'

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings @ Southpaw 11/19/05
When we got there, we already missed the 1st band of this triple bill that was the Daptone Records Funk and Soul Revue, but we managed to catch most of the set by The Budos Band, an instrumental soul/funk band whose overall sound reminded me of the thick grooves of such luminaries of the genre as (early '70s) Kool and the Gang. After an extended intermission that still felt like a dance party since great old 45s by Rufus Thomas ("Tramp") and the like blared loudly out of the speakers, The Dap Kings (sans Sharon Jones) came on and played an 8 song set of their own material. Frankly, I thought they were fun and all, but I was getting impatient waiting for Sharon Jones (the person I paid to see) come on. I should say that I probably would've enjoyed their set more if it wasn't so hot in the elevated part of Southpaw. It was so incredibly hot up there that I could barely stand it, so a few songs after Sharon Jones came on, we went to the downstairs level and got spots by the bar. It was near the door, so it was a lot cooler and this made a lot of difference in terms of me being able to enjoy the show. I don't know if they turned up the heat to make it seem more like a juke joint down South than a club in Park Slope, but it was almost too much to bear.

Anyway, onto Sharon Jones herself. She was amazing. She opened with a few songs I didn't know and some interesting interpretive dancing that she attributed to her African-American and Native-American ancestors (and dancing would be a recurring theme throughout the evening), but then the set really got going when she started playing material from her excellent album Naturally, which has been getting a lot of airplay around here. Aside from stellar originals like "How Do I Let a Good Man Down" and "My Man is a Mean Man" (during which she introduced the Dap-Kings as "mean men", but in a different and presumably better sense) as well as the politically-charged "What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes", classic covers such as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land", the Otis Redding/Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and the encore, a furious take on James Brown's "There was a Time" (fitting since Sharon is also a native of Augusta, GA, which is of course the Godfather of Soul's hometown) were also played during the hour and a half long set.

All in all, what I got out of this show, aside from Sharon Jones' huge voice and commanding stage presence, was the sheer intensity and passionate energy of not only her voice but the fiery '70s soul/funk music played behind her, and the fact that despite the fact that it was hard to take your eyes off of her while she was performing, is that the music of the Daptone Records stable is really dance music and as such, it was good to see a few people (even me) cutting loose throughout the course of the evening. While this may be unusual for Brooklyn hipsters, it was healthy in the best possible way. It's good to just go out, cut a rug and have a good time sometimes! I just wish that I had some pictures. Sigh.

Friday, November 18, 2005

"We Worship the Dark Lord"

Jeff Tweedy @ Tribeca Performing Arts Center 11/17/05
I tried to get a ticket to see this show when they went on sale last month. I ended up waiting in line for 3 hours only to find out that they'd sold out when I was a block away (the line for tickets wrapped around 5 or 6 blocks), so I was delighted when I found out yesterday morning that there was a stand-by line and that on Wednesday night (Tweedy played there 2 nights in a row), everyone in the stand-by line got in. So forward to last night. I get there and 2 girls are trying to sell me their tickets for $25 a pop (tickets were supposed to be free for this event). I talked them down to $20 but I told them that I wanted to check out the situation first (i.e. I wanted to see what a real ticket looked like to make sure I wasn't getting scammed and also I wanted to see how long the line was). It was cold as hell, so the prospect of waiting in the stand-by line for over an hour (they don't let people on the stand-by line get in until 8:15) filled me with dread, so I walked back over to where the 2 girls where standing, but of course they weren't there anymore. Presumably, they'd gotten rid of their tickets. So, left with no other recourse, I went back to the stand-by line and waited. Miraculously, as they were letting people in (ticketholders got to go in at 7), some guy walked by me asking if anyone was alone since he had an extra (free) ticket. Of course, I yelled out and so I got in immediately thanks to a complete stranger! What makes this story even better is that we got in so early, we got to sit in the front row, a little bit to the right! And all for free! Unbelievable.

At about 8:15, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche took the stage. He played a solo set with just him on drums (and occasionally on vibes or a xylophone; I couldn't tell) and some accompanying tape loops. It wasn't Cream's "Toad" or anything that indulgent, though, thankfully. He tuned his drums specifically for the show and not only played them traditionally, but pulled a long, dangling piece of string that he'd tied to one of his drums (I couldn't tell which one) and at one point even used one of his drumsticks as a paintbrush on one of the snares. It was definitely weird, but quite good. I'd never seen anything quite like it. Obviously, he's very influenced by avant-garde composers like Cage and Stockhausen, but he also has a thing for Brazilian music as well. At one point he covered a Jao Gilberto composition towards the end of his solo set.

And then after about 45 minutes, he left and 5 minutes later, Jeff Tweedy came on with just an acoustic guitar in hand. He played for about an hour and his set including a few songs which I didn't recognize, but many which I did, including "Summerteeth" (complete with audience backing "oohs" and "ahhs") and "She's a Jar" from 1999's Summerteeth, a Woody Guthrie song whose name eludes me, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "War on War" from 2002's masterpice Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and a few songs (opener "Muzzle of Bees", "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" and 1 other) from last year's flawed but intriguing A Ghost is Born. In particular, the Ghost material was a revelation. On record, "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" is a long (almost 10 minute) piece reminscent of the Krautrock of Neu! (in fact, according to Tweedy, it's a direct tribute), but when he stripped it down to just his voice and acoustic guitar, it reveals its roots as an almost plaintive folk song. The title track from "Summerteeth" was also a revelation as I preferred it to the version on the record as well.

After a short break, he came out for not just one or 2 encores, but an entire mini-set, thus upping the length of the show to an hour and a half. After a beautiful rendition of Being There's "Sunken Treasure" (a song that features some of Tweedy's most affecting vocals and lyrics; he really sang the hell out of his song), Glenn came out with fellow Wilco (and Loose Fur) member Jim O'Rourke and we were treated to an impromptu Loose Fur mini-set featuring the terrific "Whistling Jesus", which will appear on their next record (which they just finished recording, according to Tweedy). Something really funny happened after they finished playing this song. Someone in the audience yelled out "yay Jesus" to which Tweedy replied with the title of this post and further adding "think about the name; it's Loose Fur" (get it?). Brilliant. Anyway, after that O'Rourke walked off and Jeff and Glenn proceeded to play "Heavy Metal Drummer" complete with Glenn's hysterical Led Zeppelin-esque drum fills. After that, I thought that was gonna be it, but Tweedy came back out with just his guitar to play "The Lonely 1", another song from Being There that I adore. An appropriate ending to a great night with an even greater price (free). I want to thank John (if by some strange chance you're reading this) for giving me your extra ticket.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One Way Ticket to Hell (and Back)

You can watch the video for The Darkness' "One Way Ticket to Hell (and Back)" here. Enjoy! Thanks to Bill for the picture and the link.

Art Brut pictures

Here are a few pictures (taken by Anne) from Saturday night's show at the Tribeca Grand.

PREVIOUSLY: My review of this show.

Sons and Daughters on KCRW

Sons and Daughters played a live session on KCRW's famous Morning Becomes Eclectic show a few days ago. You can download the entire session here as individual mp3s. Enjoy! (Thanks Anne)

PREVIOUSLY: My review of Sons and Daughters @ Sound Fix and North Six later that night

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bang Bang Rock and Roll

Art Brut @ The Tribeca Grand 11/12/05
I've only been to The Tribeca Grand 3 times, but this was by far the most packed I've ever seen it (though only the last 2 times have been in the room in the basement where they normally hold shows). Despite the long wait and the overstuffed and circulation-deprived surroundings, it was all worthwhile as Art Brut played an awesomely energetic set that had much of the front rows singing (and occasionally even dancing and pogoing) along. And hey, the sound is generally pretty good and the shows are always free, so I can't really complain, now can I?

They played most of their excellent debut album Bang Bang Rock and Roll along with a brand new song that they only had 1 verse and a chorus for. Frontman Eddie Argos (he of the razor-thin 'stache reminscent of Ron Mael of Sparks) was compelling, telling the story of what happened with Emily Kane after she called him up and asked if the song (a love song to his girlfriend at the age of 15 of the same name) was a joke and at different points throughout the evening, he prompted all in the audience to start a band or at least start a fanzine or write a book or something (I hope having a blog counts; ha). They opened with a garage band take on the opening sequence of "Welcome to the Jungle" before going straight into "Formed a Band" and then proceeded to play most of their excellent debut album, including "My Little Brother", "Emily Kane", "Modern Art" and the encore "Bang Bang Rock and Roll". During "Modern Art", Eddie ran out into the crowd. When he did that, Brooklyn Vegan took this awesome picture (yes that's me on the bottom right-hand side singing along):

I was able to pick up a copy of the album at the merchandise table and when I was there, I spoke with the person working the table, who I believe is their tour manager. Anyway, he said that they were looking for a deal for their record to come out in the U.S. (currently it's only available on the UK) and that's the reason they undertook this short U.S. tour. Hopefully they'll be back soon (I predict a headlining slot at Bowery Ballroom in the new year). I can't wait to see them again!

You can see more of Brooklyn Vegan's photos and his review of the show here.

Bill was at the Mercury Lounge show on Thursday night. Here's his review along with some pictures. He noted that David J of Bauhaus was there at the show on Thursday night. I saw Bauhaus the next night at the Nokia Theater (review).

Heartonastick was there on Thursday night as well. Here's his outstanding review.

Bela Lugosi's Dead

Bauhaus @ Nokia Theater 11/11/05
Although this is the case, luckily Bauhaus isn't. They reunited earlier this year for an appearance at the Coachella Festival, complete with Peter Murphy hanging upside down when they opened with "Bela Lugosi's Dead". During their previous reunion in 1998, I missed their appearance at Hammerstein Ballroom, so I jumped at the chance to get tickets for this show when they went on sale back in August.

First off, this was my 1st time at this brand new venue. Although it was very clean and antiseptic, it still felt like an theater of some sort (more than a rock and roll venue) and the sound was very good, so in those ways it was quite appropriate for Bauhaus' theatrical music. There was no opener and they went on right after 9 (almost on cue) and played until a little after 10:30 or so. The first few songs were shaky because Peter Murphy was either not fully into it vocally or his vocals were turned down in the mix, which is what my friend thought. Regardless, as soon as Daniel Ash started blaring his saxophone and strutting around the stage for an incredible version of "In Fear of Fear", the concert went from good to great. Many of the old favorites, such as "Dark Entries", "God in an Alcove", "Kick in the Eye", "Terror Couple Kill Colonel", "Hollow Hills", "Silent Hedges", "Swing the Heartache", "She's in Parties" and others were played. In addition, songs that were more unusual choices were also tried out, including the opener "Burning from the Inside" (a 9 and a half minute funk-based dirge that I love but I know many others aren't fond of) and the B-side "Rosegarden Funeral of Sores".

For the encore, they came back out and played the Daniel Ash-sung "Slice of Life" and "Bela Lugosi's Dead", concluding a stunning (though a bit too short; it would've been nice to hear "Crowds", for instance, but that's a very minor complaint) show that witnessed all 4 members in top form vocally and instrumentally. Daniel Ash is an extremely innovative and underrated guitarist (not to mention vocalist, artist and his turn on the sax) and the rhythm section of David J and his brother Kevin Haskins is incredible, too. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw a band so tight in its precision yet all the while making crazy sounds rarely heard on their instruments before or since. I loved the fact that the bass was turned way up (I'm a huge fan of that style of bass-playing which features it in the forefront; it started out in reggae and dub and many post-punk bands, including Bauhaus, adopted it as well), so you could hear David's almost John Entwistle-like lines. As my friend noted, Peter Murphy sounded more like the Murphy of yore than he did in the 1998 video Gotham (which chronicled the 1998 reunion show at Hammerstein) and on his previous and subsequent solo tours.

The incredible photo above is by David Thorton/Ice Cream Man and was reprinted in Pitchfork for the review I cited above. You can visit his site here. He's got a review of Bauhaus' recent show at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. Search in the index and you can see it there.

Still Fighting It

Ben Folds @ Radio City Music Hall 11/7/05
First and foremost, I'm sorry that this review is so late. This was my 4th night out in 5 days and to be honest, I probably wouldn't have gone to see this show (despite the fact that Folds is a long-time favorite artist of mine) if I didn't buy the tickets as a birthday present to my friend and co-worker Sue, who's an even bigger fan of Ben than I am.

And why not? Well for starters, I've seen Ben both with Ben Folds Five and solo at least a dozen times (no exagerration) over the years since Whatever and Ever Amen came out and made me a fan and though he always puts on a great show (the 2 times I've seen him solo at Bowery Ballroom and the show at the Beacon with Joe Jackson on hand for a few songs have been especially memorable), his new album Songs for Silverman (which came out earlier this year) was a major letdown. Gone are the fiery sparks of humor and the big hooks of yore, replaced by the feeling that he's mellowed out and lost his sense of humor (and penchant for said big hooks and melodies that stick in your head for days).

With all that said, I was still looking forward to seeing this show because it's still Ben, I hadn't seen him play in over a year and because he has a knack for rearranging material in concert to make it sound shockingly superior to the recorded versions. I was also looking forward to it because I knew he'd be playing with a band and I hadn't seen him play with one in over 4 years, the last time being when he played with a full band at Town Hall right after the release of his 1st solo album Rockin' the Suburbs.

So after missing the opener (whose name escapes me at the moment), we got there at a little before 9 (after a tasty meal at Yum, a dependable no-frills Thai restaurant located amidst a sea of overpriced tourist traps) and Ben went on promptly at 9:15 or so. Backed by only a bassist and drummer (how Ben Folds Five-like, though in reality the show reminded me more of when I saw Joe Jackson play 2 small club shows back in 1999 backed by only Graham Maby on bass and Gary Burke on drums), Ben played until exactly 11:00 PM (he said he would be fined $20,000 if he played 1 minute over that time since there was a curfew). The 1st half of the set, consisting of him playing with the band, covered much of the new album, the 3 subsequent eps and his 1st solo album and I have to say that the live versions far surpassed the album versions in many cases, especially on the new material. It was during the 2nd half of the show, however, that it really became transcendent. The band left and Ben played solo, delivering a harrowing version of "Lullabye" (from the overlooked 1999 Ben Folds Five swan song The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner) that absolutely slayed me and destroyed the much more tame version that closed the album. In addition, songs like that album's fantastic "Don't Change Your Plans" and "The Ascent of Stan" (from Rockin' the Suburbs) received the solo treatment to fantastic results. After a few more songs in the same mold, the band came out again and it became a greatest hits set of sort with well-known tunes like the solemn "Brick", "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" (both from Whatever and Ever Amen) and the closer Army" (complete with audience sing-along).

All in all, this was a fantastic show that restored my faith in one of my favorite performers. Furthermore, I have to add that this is by far the largest venue I've ever seen Ben perform in. It's telling that almost a decade after his only real hit, he's more popular as a live performer than ever. He's been able to fashion a career out of writing great, memorable songs that have a personal perspective on all facets of life ranging from the personal (the aforementioned "Brick") to the explicity political ("All You Can Eat") and people have clearly responded to it, so more power to him.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hot 3-Way Action

Spoon, American Music Club and Mary Timony @ Warsaw 11/6/05
First of all, get your minds out of the gutter! I merely titled this post "Hot 3-Way Action" to describe the awesomeness of this great triple bill that played at Warsaw last night (and at the new Nokia Theater the night before, but I was busy seeing Super Furry Animals that night). Going to Warsaw is always about more than just whatever band(s) are playing. It's also about the experience and though the sound isn't the greatest and we found out later that the balcony is now only for VIPs (which is what happens when you sell out to Clear Channel, but I digress) unlike in the past, when anyone could go up there, what makes it all worthwhile is the amazing food! You get a platter of pierogies and kielbasa for only $5 and a plate of cherry blintzes for the same price and they're all extremely tasty. To me it's comfort food and I always end up eating dinner there whenever I'm there. Oh and the draft beer (a Pilsner of some sort) was great, too. Anyway, Mary Timony (formerly of '90s indie darlings Helium) first took the stage with only herself on vocals and guitar and drummer accompanying her. Being unfamiliar with her music before the show, I can only say that I really liked it and that the drummer's playing reminded me a lot of George Hurley (formerly of The Minutemen and Firehose), which is a very good thing. She played a lot of twangy, surf-style licks and seemed to having a good time and even covered Richard Hell and the Voidoids' classic "I'm Your Man" (from the incredible Blank Generation), which made me happy as well.

Next up was American Music Club. I'd never seen this band live before and to be honest, I've only become recently acquainted with their back catalog (including their excellent reunion album Love Songs for Patriots). Singer/guitarist Mark Eitzel seemed very conscious of the fact that most of the crowd wasn't there to see them (but rather the headliners Spoon; indeed a lot of people were still in the bar area at this point) by almost apologizing for their presence, saying that having them on the bill was like being nice to your great uncle or something along those lines. He had no need to worry, though, as AMC put on a stellar (though all too short) set full of lots of oldies (like the riveting "Outside This Bar") and newer destined-to-be classics like "Patriot's Heart" until they closed with "Sick of Food". An AMC show is a bit like an exorcism. Eitzel and co put you in a zone where he really makes you feel his pain (as cliche and potentially stupid as that may sound, he actually pulls it off). For instance, he introduced "Outside this Bar" by saying that he wrote it after his ex-lover's girlfriend attacked him with a knife and he introduced another song by saying that he wrote about after Kathleen (his ex-lover) killed herself. Pretty heavy stuff, to say the least, but the music has the emotional weight to back it up.

Then after a more substantial wait than the one between Mary Timony and AMC, Spoon came on and played what was by far the best show of the 3 times I've seen them over the years (including once earlier this year at the Siren Festival). I'm still waiting for them to pull out their cover of Wire's "Lowdown", which I don't think they play anymore, but otherwise, it was an excellent set. The material from 2001's modern classic Girls Can Tell is still the best and fortunately, they played 6 songs from it last night, but I also really enjoyed hearing "The Way We Get By" and "Jonathan Fisk" (from 2002's Kill the Moonlight) and new ones from this year's Gimme Fiction like "Sister Jack" and "I Turn My Camera On". In the last 4 years, Spoon have grown into a really confident live band and Britt has grown into a consummate front man not afraid of showing off (though not too much) and extending out songs and riffs as well as interplaying with the rest of the band (including excellently named drummer Jim Eno).

Thanks to Frank for letting me use 2 of his photos (the ones of Britt Daniel of Spoon and Mary Timony; the AMC one is from their website). You can find a whole lot more of these photos (all from their recent show in Toronto) as well as a review of the show here.

The Man Don't Give a Fuck

Super Furry Animals @ Webster Hall 11/5/05
We got there a bit late, but we managed to catch about half of Caribou's opening set. I like their new record The Milk of Human Kindness, but I wasn't sold on their live show. Instead of just a guy and his laptop, which is what I was expecting, it was 3 member band with 2 drummers and one member (Dan Snaith) who occasionally played keyboards and a melodica on one song. At times, it was very noisy and high energy, but mostly it was just strange and while it tried to put me in a different head space, it didn't quite succeed, even with the visual backdrops, partly because of Webster Hall's poor sound and partly because I generally don't think this stuff translates that well live.

After dealing with yet another bartender who doesn't seem to know how to count or take orders (Webster Hall seems to have lots of these), Super Furry Animals (in matching spacesuits; for one song during the encore Gruff Rhys put on a helmet!) took the stage. This was my 1st time seeing them and it was clearly a weird show and not one for the uninitiated. Despite that, I still enjoyed it. After a lackluster first few songs during which they either tried to find their footing or weren't into it, most of the main set consisted of songs from their new Love Kraft, which I enjoyed but which also seemed to bore most of the audience (either that or they were really attentive). Love Kraft is a fine album and one that's grown on me a lot since I got it and didn't like it at first, but it's atmospheric, complex and not at all immediate, so I imagine that it must've been a difficult show for fans to swallow if they hadn't heard it or in the case of my girlfriend, not familiar with the band's music at all. Nevertheless, the new album's material was played well and unlike the 1st few songs, with lots of enthusiasm. Highlights included "Atomik Lust", the 3-part "Cloudberries" and the incredible Funkadelic via Beck "Lazer Beam", which was played as part of the encore.

This was only the first part of the show, however. During the long encore, starting off with "Slow Life" from 2003's amazing Phantom Power, they played their old hits including "Rings Around the World" and "The Man Don't Give a Fuck", which they closed with complete with a backdrop that read "All Governments are Liars and Murderers" and which played a sample of it over and over again. During this portion of the show, it was obvious that the audience was really into it as they were really going wild for these songs, which is understandable since they're more catchy and immediate.

Overall, it was an enjoyable show despite Webster Hall's poor sound and "bad vibes" (apparently when Devendra Banhart played there a few weeks ago, he sensed "bad vibes" and that bad things had happened there before; I wouldn't doubt it) and the fact that they didn't play "Liberty Belle" or "Back on a Roll", 2 of my favorite songs from their last few albums.

Here's what the stage looked like from where we were standing (in the middle of the floor off on the left-hand side). Thanks Anne!

PREVIOUSLY: My review of Rilo Kiley @ Webster Hall back in May
My review of The Fiery Furnaces @ Webster Hall back in April

The above picture of Gruff with helmet was taken at the recent Toronto show and it's from For the Records.

Bill also wrote a terrific review of this show. You can read it here.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Fugitive Motel

Elbow @ Hiro Ballroom 11/3/05
Actually the Maritime Hotel (which houses the Hiro Ballroom) is far from a "fugitive motel", but rather a hip, trendy and consequently very pricey ($400 a night) hotel. Regardless, I must say that I absolutely love this venue. It's like the House of Blue Leaves in Kill Bill, where the final scene (the massacre) was filmed. There was Japanese lettering all around and even a dragon that puffed smoke (insert your own joke here) above the tiny stage. The place can't hold more than 400 people and the sound was absolutely perfect, though they were working with a tiny PA (more on the technical problems below).

By the time that we got there (after eating at a terrific Cuban place nearby), it was 8:30 and we missed Mazarin, the up-and-coming openers, who I'd wanted to see. It took almost another hour for Elbow to hit the stage, but once they did, they were mesmerizing and the long wait was all but forgotten. It's a bit surreal to see a band as intense as they are whose lead singer sits on a stool during performances and uses his cane as a prop during songs. Furthermore, with a dreadlocked bass player and a guitar player who resembled a mid '60s Mod (however, I could barely see the drummer because of the small stage, they're definitely a visually striking band as well and Guy Garvey's stage presence as well as his persona is terrific as well.

They played a variety of songs from their 3 albums and concentrated mainly on their new one, Leaders of the Free World, featuring such standouts as the single "Forget Myself", "Mexican Standoff" and the title track, which Guy introduced by saying that he was happy to be in a city where everyone thought like him in regards to global politics. Indeed! If I had one complaint, it's that they didn't play enough songs from Cast of Thousands, my favorite album of theirs. Nevertheless, it was great to hear "Fugitive Motel", "Grace Under Pressure" and "Fallen Angel" from that terrific album as well as "Newborn" from their debut Asleep in the Back. However, it took 2 attempts for them to play "Newborn" since guitarist Mark Potter's amp died and they brought another one and it still didn't work, so they took a break (though they claimed that they don't do encores since it's "a silly French invention") and came back out for 2 more songs, finally getting "Newborn" right and then eventually finishing with "Grace Under Pressure".

Overall, it was great and the personal nature of the show (and intimate size of the venue) made it that much more special. I really hope that they have more shows at this venue. My only complaint about it is that $7 bottled beer is a no-no (though at least it's Japanese beer, so it was appropriate) and I'm not crazy about bathroom attendants, either. I can get the towels myself. Thank you. These are minor complaints, though.

Here's a review and setlist from The Modern Age.

Here's another review from Sound Bites.

The above picture is from Coolfer. You can see more of his photos here.