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Elvis Perkins Leaves Rough Trade NYC Crowd Spellbound

April 21st, 2015

Elvis Perkins – Rough Trade NYC – April 20, 2015

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It’s been a few years since Elvis Perkins headlined a show in New York City. He’s been off the radar for a while, gone so long, one might worry that people would forget about him. But in his case, absence only made the heart grow fonder as Perkins returned to the stage Monday night, performing for a sold-out Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn. He plays a unique, unpredictable style of folk anchored by superlative songwriting and a voice that’s difficult to forget. Besides, this is a guy who once led a Bowery Ballroom audience underground and across Delancey St. to jam out among the subway power washers. You don’t forget something like that.

Outside, a dense fog had penetrated the entire region, which brought an appropriately mysterious vibe to the music inside. And it was like Perkins—opening with “I Came for Fire,” off his new album, I Aubade—was summoning spirits, howling into the humid evening. He was joined in his séance by a range of instrumentation: Autoharp, pump organ, bass, analog synth, and later, drums and horns (by openers and former Perkins band members Kinsey and Wyndham) adding to his own guitar and harmonica. For the most part, these largely served to frame Perkins’ voice and lyrics, each syllable its own percolating entity seemingly independent of meter or verse. The audience was incredibly attentive, spellbound by the meandering new material, like “Gasolina” and “My 2$.”

Later on, Perkins worked some older material into the set, “Shampoo,” feeling wonderful and weird accompanied by trumpet, harmonica and pump organ, and “Doomsday,” adding to the just-a-little-dark mood. The set closed with “AM,” the band at full sextet and Perkins at his lyrically strongest. He left the stage leaving horns and harp and synth to twist a nifty outro jam before dissipating into nothing. Prior to sending the crowd outside into the fog, Perkins came back out for an encore highlighted by the show-closing “While You Were Sleeping,” the standout track from his Ash Wednesday album, each word condensing in the air until there was almost a moist cloud of lyrics floating through the room. Personally, it gave me some goose bumps I won’t soon forget. —A. Stein | @Neddyo