Cate Le Bon Previews New Music at The Bowery BallroomApril 12th, 2016
Cate Le Bon – The Bowery Ballroom – April 11, 2016
Cate Le Bon’s new album, Crab Day, doesn’t come out until Friday, but she gave The Bowery Ballroom a special Monday night preview of it, playing the whole thing straight through. Banana, who would also serve as her backing band, opened the show. She sat in with them as they played a set of lovely instrumentals: neat baubles of melody mixing the traditional guitar, bass, drums with marimbas and clarinet. Before they returned to the stage, a short film that combined the truly weird (like bare-feet-squashing-overripe-pomegranates weird) with some seriously groovy backing music written by Le Bon, played for the audience. At nearly 15 minutes, it was just long enough to make you feel uncomfortable, which seemed to serve its purpose.
Groovy, but slightly, delightfully weird, would be a good way to describe the set that followed. The opening number, the album’s title track, had a pulsing, inescapable rhythm that permeated the entire show, getting the crowd moving yet keeping everyone just off-kilter the entire night. Le Bon and Banana wore identical headgear—knit sun hats that looked almost like the ones French schoolgirls might wear in children’s books. But beneath the colored lights, they seemed to each fluoresce with a unique pastel glow, adding a beautiful quality to the already familiar-but-alien music. On songs like “Find Me,” Le Bon was a Welsh hybrid of David Byrne and Syd Barrett, the band swirling Eno-infused Talking Heads rhythms with a touch of surrealism.
With their multi-instrumentalism, Banana were a flexible counter to Le Bon’s otherworldly voice and off-center guitar playing. After announcing the start of “side two,” the ensemble seemed to go in for the kill, building on the grooves of the first half with a cool, long halftime Afrobeat outro on “How Do You Know?” and a shredding guitar jam from Le Bon on the set-closing “What’s Not Mine.” The encore featured three songs off of 2013’s Mug Museum with a more jagged punk sound that gave a different feel than the new material. It’s good to have both sounds in the bag and while Crab Day is still fresh off the presses, you can only imagine what’s next up for Cate Le Bon. —A. Stein | @Neddyo