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Little Joy? Lots of Joy!

June 24th, 2009

Little Joy – The Bowery Ballroom – June 23, 2009

(Photo: Karine Carvalho)

(Photo: Karine Carvalho)

Something was different at The Bowery Ballroom for Little Joy’s sold-out set last night. A member of the Strokes leaned in to the bouncer near the right of the stage and said, “It’s the 2000 crew again.” It was a bit of nostalgia. He was certainly referring to when his band stormed through the New York club scene at the turn of the millennium and, allegedly, saved rock and roll in the city. Whatever actually happened, it earned something approaching reverence, which is exactly the word loosely connected to Little Joy, a band devised by Strokes drummer Fabrizio Morretti. Now, Little Joy wasn’t attempting to save anything—just trying to finish their tour before going to Mexico.

Sonically, the heat of Latin America wasn’t a bad starting place: Rodrigo Amarante, a Brazilian, and Bikini Shapiro, a stone fox, fronted the band. Amarante opened the show alone but was quickly joined by the whole of Little Joy, including horns courtesy of the Teenage Prayers. The night oscillated between eruptive and quiet. Just like on the record, the music had its quiet moments and it had its movers. During “No One’s Better Sake” and “Keep Me in Mind,” the crowd shifted to the beat of something tropical and gritty. Shapiro was chatty in a suggestively thin dress while Amarante was an undemanding stage director.

Moretti would make only a cursory appearance in the set’s last song, “Brand New Start.” As an addition to the New York-downtown-Illuminati, Regina Spektor lilted onstage to add her vocals to the closer. It was raucous and a perfect conclusion. For a night steeped in the past, the show looked forward—with celebrity additions and rock history in perfect balance. It was, spectacularly, a little different. —Geoff Nelson