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Hockey Night in The Bowery Ballroom

March 16th, 2010

Hockey – The Bowery Ballroom – March 16, 2010

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Hockey’s lead singer, Benjamin Grubin, has this habit of touching his face. Sometimes it’s an index finger pressed to the temple, accompanied by a cocked eyebrow that indicates a revelation at hand, or he buries his face in his palm. But he nearly always explodes away from these gestures, whipping his lithe frame in circles. Last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the frontman was caught between the revelations communicated to his temple and the shroud of his palm over his face, both inspired and insecure, a spinning, exploding vessel of influences and new creations.

Of course, Grubin acknowledges the unique space Hockey inhabits between the bands they admittedly borrow from and the new music they forge in this crucible of pastiche. On “Song Away”—which transported the audience to summertime with Tom Petty on the FM dial—Grubin sang, “I stole my personality from an anonymous source/ And I’m getting paid for it too/ I don’t feel bad about that” just seconds after confiding “I want to write a truthful song over an ’80s groove.” The song was both completely lifted and completely elevating. Earlier on the soaring “Learn to Lose,” he admitted “Last time I lost control of my confidence it took me five years to get it back.” That forthrightness was winning and unquestionably original.

In between playing two new songs, darker creations suggesting a deep second album, the band crushed debut-record favorites “3am Spanish” and “Curse This City.” After a deserved encore, Hockey closed with the appropriate “Too Fake” and Grubin was back to the topic of originality. At the front of the stage, he screamed the chorus, “Look out! I’m just too fake for the world!” It was both terms of surrender and a declaration of war, exhaustion in the age of footnotes and inspiration in a time of collage. —Geoff Nelson