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Sunset Rubdown’s Operatic Eccentricities

October 19th, 2009

Sunset Rubdown – Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom – October 17, 2009

Sunset Rubdown
Spencer Krug, one half of Wolf Parade, brought his grandiose side project, Sunset Rubdown, to the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom on Friday night. The venue couldn’t have felt more appropriate to premiere Sunset’s latest epic album, Dragonslayer, to a New York City audience. The ancient, cavernous space is tucked away on the second floor of a nondescript midtown building, reachable only by manually operated elevator, and filled with tiered balconies, vaulted ceilings, red velvet curtains and an enormous disco ball. This antiquated and clandestine space was a perfect complement for Sunset Rubdown’s operatic eccentricities. Smoke machines lit from behind fell on the back of the stage like northern lights. The band seemed ripped off the mean streets and thrown into a faded Polaroid prom scene.

There are quite a few guitar-driven songs on Dragonslayer, and Krug seems equally at home creating jagged rhythms on songs like “You Go on Ahead” as he has been in playing piano-centric melodies on previous albums—it seems no instrument escapes his proficiency. The guitar lends itself to creating the soaring tones that rise higher and higher each verse, mixing with grinding distortion into an inevitable peak of sweat and floor-shaking chaos. Camilla Wynn Ingr’s angelic vocals, set against the quivering manic vocals from Krug, are also highlighted in the new material. She sings while navigating through an array of instruments, adding peculiar flourishes at opportune moments. Krug is clearly at the helm of these long-form literary songs. Free from Wolf Parade’s pop structure, he took every opportunity to expand these classically influenced ballads. However self-deprecating he comes across in his stage banter, it’s not working. He’s got nothing to be humble about. —Jason Dean