Tag Archives: Beatles


The London Souls Celebrate a New Album at The Bowery Ballroom

April 6th, 2015

The guys in the London Souls—Tash Neal (vocals and guitar), whom Okayplayer says channels “both Jimmy Page and the gypsy verve of Django Reinhardt,” and Chris St. Hilaire (drums and vocals)—felt comfortable playing together the very first time they did so. It also happened to be the first time they had met each other. No matter, they’ve been channeling their shared love of classic bands like Cream, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin into their own hard-driving rock with layered vocals ever since. Their newest full-length, Here Come the Girls (stream it below), comes out tomorrow. According to AllMusic, it “features 13 tracks of driving rock, stomping blues and the occasional folky jingle. There’s distorted guitars, upbeat ukulele and drums that aren’t in a rush to get to their destination, combined with vocals that alternately ache and roar.” The London Souls celebrate its arrival with a hometown album-release party tomorrow night at The Bowery Ballroom. Brooklyn rock five-piece the Skins open the show.


Alt-J Sell Out Madison Square Garden and Win Over New York City

March 31st, 2015

Alt-J – Madison Square Garden – March 30, 2015

Alt-J – Madison Square Garden – March 30, 2015
Conquering the shores of America has never been easy for most British bands. Sure there are the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead, to name a few, but on the whole, it’s not a simple feat. And now, Alt-J have not only conquered the States but they’ve also played the legendary Madison Square Garden. NPR has lauded the band with high praise: “No one else is making music like this. This is an original, innovative band with a brilliant present and a brighter future.” And with only two albums to their name, the four-piece—including Cameron Knight, who’s replaced one of the founding members, Gwil Sainsbury, on bass and sampler—conquered a sold-out MSG last night.

I’ve often shied away from arena shows, longing for the ambience of a smaller, more intimate venue, but I wouldn’t let myself miss another chance to see Alt-J live. The crowd rumbled into applause and cheers as the house lights dimmed to welcome the quartet to a backlit stage. Lead vocalist Joe Newman creeped into “Hunger of the Pine” to kick off the set, however the performance was largely a trip down memory lane with the bulk of the set list comprised of material from their debut album, An Awesome Wave, and fans joined in to sing along to favorites “Fitzpleasure” and “Matilda.”

Leaving the music to speak for them, Alt-J didn’t utter much more than a few thank-yous and some genuine appreciation to be in New York City, playingt their biggest local venue to date. And as a nod to their own hometown, the band pulled out “a really old song,” “Leon,” from their Leeds days. Newman’s and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton’s choral-like vocals rang across the cavernous building as drummer Thom Green pounded the skins, particularly shining on the encore’s closing song, “Breezeblocks.”

Despite my qualms about seeing Alt-J in such a large venue, their music seemed to transcend space, transporting me back to my days of hitting festivals in the UK while still enclosed in hallowed MSG. I couldn’t help but join in for the final serenade of “Please don’t go, please don’t go, I love you so, I love you so” because the audience and I didn’t want the show to end. The lads from Leeds have certainly won over New York City, if not America. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com


Deer Tick Don’t Need a Reason to Throw a Party

December 29th, 2014

Deer Tick – Brooklyn Bowl – December 28, 2014

Deer Tick – Brooklyn Bowl – December 28, 2014
If Deer Tick have proved anything over the past 10 years, it’s that they don’t need an excuse to celebrate: Their shows are always equal parts rock concert and private party. So when there really is a reason to throw a bash, like, say, their 10-year anniversary this month, well, they really go all out. Sunday night found them halfway into a six-night New Year’s run at Brooklyn Bowl, each date featuring special guests and album covers and plenty of surprises. Last night’s first set was Deer Tick’s take on Meet the Beatles, an interesting selection to say the least. Wearing matching custom bowling shirts commemorating the anniversary, they got things moving with spot-on renditions of the opening one-two of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” McCauley’s Providence, R.I., growl provided a Deer Tick warmth to the well-known songs. He joked that he would sing the Lennon parts, Ian O’Neil would sing the McCartney parts, but they had no George Harrison, so they invited the night’s first guest, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, to sing “Don’t Bother Me.” His manic presence on vocals loosened the band a little. Later the Felice Brothers’ James Felice played accordion to the same effect, punctuating a set that was equally fun for the band and packed house alike.

Following a short break, just McCauley and Goldsmith returned to play as “Little Brother,” performing material from the Middle Brother collaboration they were involved in a few years ago. The audience went quiet at once, savoring the special treat while the duet spun a stellar four-song mini-set that included “Daydreaming,” “Thanks for Nothing” and “Million Dollar Bill,” the stage dappled in colored lights adding to the special feeling in the room. By the time Deer Tick proper took the stage to play their own material, it felt like we’d already been treated to a celebration worthy of 10 years, but of course the guys had plenty more in the tank, pulling out rarities like “Hand in My Hand” and crowd-favorite sing-alongs like “Main Street,” which anchored the strongest stretch of the evening.

Just when things felt like they were winding down, Deer Tick brought out the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson to lead a couple of songs, including a barn-burning version of the Who’s “The Kids Are Alright” that had Dennis Ryan impressively going all Keith Moon behind the kit. It didn’t seem possible to top that, but Deer Tick had no problem trying, bringing about a dozen guests onstage, including Stinson, Goldsmith, Felice as well as Robert Ellis and opener Joe Fletcher, all in their own bowling shirts, I might add. They led the crowd in a rousing version of “Goodnight, Irene” that was appropriately epic to end a weeklong celebration. But it really only marked the midway point of the week and, who knows, maybe their career. But one thing’s for sure, Deer Tick are just getting started.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com


A Wednesday Dance Party with Pomplamoose at The Bowery Ballroom

September 25th, 2014

Pomplamoose – The Bowery Ballroom – September 24, 2014

There is an art to covers—a balancing act, if you will, between reinvention and cheesy imitation. The Californian couple of Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, aka Pomplamoose, have tackled a slew of artists ranging from Beyoncé to Eden Ahbez and have garnered a large fan base from their YouTube videos. It’s difficult to pin down the duo to a genre, as the two float between pop, jazz, blues, punk and folk. Whether doing covers or their own original songs, the pair infuses jauntiness to every melody they tackle. In front of a sold-out crowd at The Bowery Ballroom last night, Conte and Dawn kicked off the night fittingly with the introductory “Hey, It’s Pomplamoose.” Dawn announced the night would be a dance party as she barreled into Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” For the doo-wop sway of “Bust Your Knee Caps,” references to the Italian mafia rang through the lyrics but the bouncy cadence had the fans singing the chorus to the end of the ditty.

The evening turned toward covers from a “Lorde 2Pac Beck Mashup” to Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy,” after which the backing band exited to leave the couple front and center. While Dawn attended to some battery issues with her earpiece, Conte proceeded to entertain the crowd with stories from their tour. As they ad-libbed through the technical hiccup, their personalities shined through. Fueled by a crowdsourcing engine Patreon, Pomplamoose aren’t signed to a label, and they produce largely through funds from their patrons, a few in attendance last night. Some covers (Mark Owen’s “Makin’ Out” and Pat Ballard’s “Mister Sandman”) hit stronger than others (Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and the Beatles’ “Come Together”).

Dawn’s playful vocals shown through on “If You Think You Need Some Lovin’” and telegraphed a resemblance to Feist and Inara George of the Bird and the Bee. Conte playfully called for a James Brown “hit me” moment egging on the band to “Another Day.” He continued the frivolity on “Get That Body Back” by asking the audience to part ways to create a circle that he proceeded to occupy by “going crazy” in and recruiting fan upon fan to join him. To top it off, both Conte and Dawn stage dived and crowd surfed before ending the set with the timely cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.” Returning to the stage, Pomplamoose encored with “Centrifuge,” while an accordion was being located. That fine instrument would put the icing on the cake for the evening as Dawn lulled the crowd with Édith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” —Sharlene Chiu

 (Pomplamoose play Music Hall of Williambsurg tonight.)


Portugal. The Man and Grouplove Close Out Tour in Central Park

September 17th, 2014

Portugal. The Man/Grouplove – Rumsey Playfield – September 16, 2014

Portugal. The Man – Rumsey Playfield – September 16, 2014

Portugal. The Man

Midway through their set at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Tuesday—the closing night of the Honda Civic TourGrouplove’s Hannah Hooper declared that the tour was all about “making art.” As incongruous as that may sound, the show was one of those rare instances where live rock and roll was elevated to an art form: the music, the lights, the visuals and the crowd interaction. The pairing of Grouplove with Portugal. The Man was an inspired billing, each band bringing a different aesthetic and energy to the performance, and both inspiring a whole lot of singing along, clapping along, waving arms along, pretty much everything along.

After a big-sound set from Typhoon, Grouplove entered amidst a cloud of smoke and a haze of hip-hop over the PA. Their set was 70 minutes of cathartic, jubilant bounce, beginning with the opening “I’m with You” and its sing-along-ready ah ah ahs and oh oh ohs. The audience was in it from the start. Grouplove’s free-form sing-along contrasted with the visuals, which had a sleek, modern feel, colorful geometric rectangles or simulated multihued television static danced on the large-screen backdrop while the audience danced in front. Everyone loves a hit, and Grouplove played plenty of them, highlighted by the ecstatic groover “Tongue Tied.” The set peaked with the couplet of “Slow” and “Borderlines and Aliens,” and particularly the space in between the two, where lights, the band’s movement and the pulsing drums worked together as one entity, eventually releasing into a wild guitar jam. After a rousing “Colours” to close their part of the show, the band returned for a rare mid-show encore, bringing along members of Portugal. The Man for a crowd-riling version of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” everyone screaming the classic lyrics. Any other night it would have been the ultimate sing-along, but there was more to come.

A quick breather later, Portugal. The Man returned and picked up right where Grouplove left off, with another classic-rock along, covering a verse and a chorus or two of Pink Floyd’s anthemic “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” before quickly kicking into their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” Their aesthetic was more bright-eyed psychedelic, like crawling into a living version of frontman John Gourley’s bizarre drawings. That is until the lasers came out, transforming Rumsey Playfield into an alien planet, with Portugal. The Man’s music as a galactic soundtrack. The band was in top form, looping verses of multiple songs into coherent medleys, stretching others, like “All Your Light,” into prog-rock freak-outs and dropping snippets of perfectly placed covers throughout. This was live music as art form, the audience digging every moment and singing from beginning to end. Like Grouplove had done, the band saved the biggest moment for their encore, which began with their slow-build rager “Sleep Forever” and ended with all of Grouplove and Typhoon onstage—horns, strings and all—for the second ultimate sing-along of the night, everyone belting out the coda to “Hey Jude”: the final touch on a work of art. —A .Stein

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com


The Fab Faux, Raw and Stripped Down in Brooklyn Tomorrow Night

July 18th, 2014

Individually, Late Show with David Letterman bassist Will Lee (vocals and bass), Conan house-band leader and guitarist Jimmy Vivino (vocals, guitar and keys), in-demand Rich Pagano (vocals and drums), accomplished songwriter Frank Agnello (vocals and guitars) and multi-instrumentalist Jack Petruzzelli (vocals, keys and guitars) are each incredibly hard working and fantastically talented. And together, they combine to join forces as the Fab Faux, which Rolling Stone’s David Fricke calls “the greatest Beatles cover band— without the wigs.” Of course, the Fab Faux (above, performing “Tomorrow Never Knows”) are much more than a cover band. No, they don’t look like the Beatles, but thanks to their love of the Fab Four and their attention to every little detail, they sound remarkably like them. And not only are they playing “raw and stripped down in Brooklyn,” tomorrow night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, but the Fab Faux return with horns, strings and special guests on 10/18 at the Beacon Theatre.


Houndmouth Continue to Climb

March 17th, 2014

Houndmouth – The Bowery Ballroom – March 14, 2014

Houndmouth – The Bowery Ballroom – March 14, 2014
The four-piece Houndmouth, out of New Albany, Ind.—just across the river from Louisville—are a terrific sum of their parts. Bassist Zak Appleby, drummer Shane Cody, guitarist Matt Myers and keyboardist Katie Toupin all share vocal duties and they each wrote songs on their much heralded debut full-length, From the Hills Below the City. The quartet has been through these parts before: appearing on the bill in September and October of 2012 at The Bowery Ballroom and playing Mercury Lounge last April before selling it out twice in November. After those fall shows, The House List said, “Houndmouth just might be the next big thing.”

Since then, it sounds like all they’ve done is spend time on the road and onstage, working on their live show, because the band’s gotten tighter and the music’s gotten looser. And on Friday night, their ragged energy and palpable exuberance were infectious, spreading smiles across a sold-out Bowery Ballroom. There were new tunes, like “By God,” sung by the perpetually grinning Appleby, and smooth segues—seamless transitions from “Krampus” to “Long as You’re at Home” and from the Beatles’ “Carry That Weight” into “Halfway to Hardinsburg”—and enthusiastic crowd sing-alongs to “Hey Rose,” “Casino (Bad Things)” and “Penitentiary.” Plus there was even a volleyball-style instrument rotation, with everyone sliding over one spot.

The night was also a celebration of Toupin’s birthday, with her mom in the balcony singing along to every tune: “Last year I spent my birthday on Willie Nelson’s farm, but this is way better.” The music, of course, was a major reason for the festive mood. “On the Road” sounded more playful than the recorded version, and the bass-driven “Ludlow” became funkier live. On multiple occasions, Myers coaxed loud applause from the audience as he plucked solos from his guitar bent over at the waist and even from his knees. In short, it was the perfect kind of music for a Friday night. And while the show would’ve been a success even without an encore, Houndmouth returned for a slow-building “The Big Oil Spill” before all four members climbed down into the crowd to finish the night with an unamplified take on “Long Black Veil,” the crowd heartily stomping along. —R. Zizmor

Photos courtesy of Lina Shteyn | www.linashteyn.com


Broken Bells Make It Look Easy at Webster Hall

March 10th, 2014

Broken Bells – Webster Hall – March 8, 2014

Broken Bells - Webster Hall - March 8, 2014
The name Broken Bells is an odd choice for a collaboration between two musicians each extremely talented in his own right. It all began back in 2004 when James Mercer (of the Shins) and Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) met at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival and had a moment of “Hey, we love each other’s music, so let’s make some together.” The partnership more than just panned out. In 2009, the duo put out their first single, “The High Road,” a song you couldn’t escape that year. Now a fully realized and impressively talented live band, Broken Bells came to a very sold-out Webster Hall on Friday night, fresh on the heels of their latest release, After the Disco.

So why do I find the band name so odd? With most collaborations or supergroup situations, you can pick apart the music and figure out who wrote what. But that’s next to impossible to do with Broken Bells, and their live show gives no further clues. There’s nothing broken about this collaboration. Taking a note from the Beatles’ playbook, all their songwriting credits go simply to “Burton/Mercer.” Even the instruments they played offered no hints as to who pitched which songs to whom, saying, “What do you think of this one?” Sometimes Mercer had just a microphone, and sometimes he was behind a guitar and singing. Burton began the set behind keyboards, before performing a few songs on the bass and then on the drums. The two have pop music in their blood, and despite only two full-length releases and an EP to the partnership’s name, they can still fill out an impressive set of irresistibly catchy songs with no apparent lulls.

Opening band Au Revoir Simone joined Broken Bells for their last few songs, providing background vocals on “Medicine” and “Leave It Alone.” And although they were also onstage singing along to “The High Road,” they were overpowered by everyone in the audience. Mercer’s vocal range was even more impressive than it generally is on Shins’ songs. But it was still perhaps a gutsy move to leave “October” for the encore. I imagine that with it jumping in and out of falsetto, the number is difficult on the vocal chords to perform after singing so many other challenging songs for more than an hour, but Mercer made it look easy. In fact, both musicians make their craft look easy: They’re naturals, but it’s still impressive how the two can seamlessly bring together their talents and have plenty of songs to show for it. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com


The Blank Tapes Play Sunny Music on a Cold Night

February 13th, 2014

The Blank Tapes – Mercury Lounge – February 12, 2014

Those exiting the late Mercury Lounge set from the Blank Tapes last night were walking straight into the first flakes of another snowstorm. It’s been the kind of winter where you just want to get away on a sunny vacation. Thankfully, Matt Adams and his Los Angeles band offered up a rollicking set of sunny California rock and roll to keep things warm … for a little while at least.

The set got hot early with “Uh Oh,” off the Blank Tapes’ newest album, appropriately titled Vacation, with the band balancing swirling psych with a throwback West Coast surf-garage sound. They featured several new songs, including a tantalizing number about extreme heat that had them harmonizing on “mister mister”—that is, the spritz of cooling water (if only!). Midway through, the endearing off-kilter harmonies gave way to more soaring guitar-fueled rock-outs.

“A’bergine” had the guitar riding a wave of Beatles-esque bass-and-drum rhythm. Things got a little darker and trippier with a song possibly titled “Long Black Tunnel,” which, with the repeated lyric “ride the wave inside your mind” and a wild machine-gun guitar solo, was either about surfing or psychedelic drugs, or maybe even both. The latter part of the set was filled with one “oh, yeah!” rock-out after another, the Blank Tapes doing their best to hold off the storm for as long as they could. —A. Stein

(The Blank Tapes open for Jonathan Wilson tomorrow at Music Hall of Williamsburg.)


Saint Rich and the Blank Tapes Play Mercury Lounge Tomorrow Night

February 11th, 2014

Steve Marion is probably most well known for fronting the cult favorite Delicate Steve.
But last year the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist teamed up with Delicate Steve guitarist Christian Peslak to form Saint Rich. They quickly recorded seven songs over a long weekend with Marion on drums and Peslak on guitar and vocals, and later added another five tunes to flesh out the catchy Beyond the Drone (stream it below), which came out last October. And tonight at Mercury Lounge, Saint Rich (above, doing “You Ain’t Worth the Night” for KEXP FM) play the early show.

Matt Adams, another singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, grew up in Southern California with songs filling his head. Influenced by the Kinks and the Beatles, but also Robyn Hitchcock, he began recording music at home. As Adams came up with increasingly more material, the project eventually blossomed into a full band, the Blank Tapes (above, performing “Look into the Light” for Jam in the Van). They’ve released a host of EPs and LPs, including the sunny full-length, Vacation (stream it below), out last year. Catch them tonight at the late show at Mercury Lounge and again on Friday, opening for Jonathan Wilson at Music Hall of Williamsburg.


John Mayer Ends Tour at Barclays Center

December 18th, 2013

John Mayer/Phillip Phillips – Barclays Center – December 17, 2013

Barclays Center welcomed thousands last night for the final performance of John Mayer’s Born and Raised tour. Phillip Phillips kicked off the night with some standout numbers from his debut album, World from the Side of the Moon. It’s no wonder he took the title of American Idol in the show’s eleventh season. Phillips’ stage presence instantly won over the audience, as did his soulful warbling. “Home” and “Where We Came From,” two crowd favorites, highlighted the set. Phillips also gave a husky-voiced performance of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” which got the crowd singing along before he did some serious justice to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” by lending his throaty twang to the rapper’s anthem.

Mayer strode onstage flanked by some exceptionally talented musicians and supporting vocalists. The stage was backlit with a brilliant landscape depicting a desert at dusk, which morphed throughout the performance. The band launched into “Queen of California.” Mayer expressed that had created a set list that would take us on a journey, and he emphasized his gratitude for his talented bandmates. “Half of My Heart” and “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” followed, punctuated by Mayer’s extensive guitar solos. “Why Georgia” brought on a wave of nostalgic cheers, and Mayer directed the song’s chorus to the audience, asking, “Are you living it right?” He then brandished a harmonica for the forlorn ballad “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey.” “Who Says” and “Speak for Me” provided an optimistic upswing as the band hit their stride in the extensive set. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” briefly dipped back into melancholy before the cheerful melodies and earnest crooning in “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” and “Wildfire” swept us up once again. “Waiting on the World to Change” had the audience cheering instantly, to which Mayer gratefully responded, “I don’t know what I did to deserve you all.” An elongated “If I Ever Get Around to Living” ended with Mayer playing two guitars at once. And then the band closed the set with “The Age of Worry” and “Dear Marie.”

The crowd wasted no time cheering for an encore and voicing their enthusiasm for a certain special guest: Katy Perry. The pop songstress and Mayer had just released a music video for “Who You Love,” and the real-life couple have an easygoing kind of chemistry onstage that is much more relatable than their über-romantic onscreen version. Perry quickly kissed Mayer goodbye as he played a Christmas medley and rounded out the night with a triumphant rendition of “Gravity.” At the end of it all, Mayer was hunched over his guitar on the floor of the stage, beaming at the audience. And as someone who saw him perform more than a decade ago toward the beginning of his career, I can say without a doubt that he’s grown to be one of the best live performers out there. —Schuyler Rooth

Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com


Lucius Return Home, Close Tour at The Bowery Ballroom

December 9th, 2013

Lucius – The Bowery Ballroom -  December 7, 2013

Having met while majoring in voice at Berklee College of Music, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig seemed destined to join forces, thanks to their complementary wall-of-sound voices and a similar unabashed sense of fashion. So it was no surprise that they became bandmates, along with drummer Dan Molad and guitarists Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri, in the Brooklyn outfit Lucius. “Their charisma and charm helps turn good pop songwriting into an endearing performance,” extolled NPR’s Bob Boilen.

That praise wasn’t in question on Saturday night, the first of two sold-out Bowery Ballroom shows over the weekend. After opening with an interlude of the Beatles’ “Free as a Bird,” the five-piece continued to enthrall fans with “Don’t Just Sit There,” the singers in matching dresses and sporting asymmetrical bobs. Large black-and-white silhouettes facing each other in a perfect yin and yang served as an appropriate backdrop. Treating longtime admirers to “Geneieve,” off their self-titled EP, the vocalists howled, “All you had to do was shut your mouth, GENEIEVE!” And Laessig exclaimed how happy Lucius were to return home to close out their 2013 tour.

The tenor thuds were in full force for “Tempest,” followed by “Monsters” with Jeff Taylor accompanying on whistling duties. The crowd really got into “Until We Get There,” clapping along to the rhythm. But the meat of set came toward the latter half, as Lucius doled out the percussion-heavy tUnE-yArDs-sounding “Nothing Ordinary,” fan-favorite “Go Home” and their full-length album’s title track, “Wildewoman.” However, Saturday’s show was not to end so quickly as Lucius promptly returned for an encore of “Turn It Around” and “Two of Us on the Run” before joining the audience on the floor for a seasonal surprise, an acoustic rendition of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” with fans hovering around them as if encircling a campfire. One couldn’t think of a more fitting ending. —Sharlene Chiu


Houndmouth Just Might Be the Next Big Thing

November 18th, 2013

Houndmouth – Mercury Lounge – November 16, 2013

If late-night rowdy rock-outs aren’t your thing, I hope you steered away from Mercury Lounge Saturday night. If you’re not interested in being a part of jubilant, top-of-the-lungs sing-alongs, I hope you avoided Houston and Essex like the plague. If up-and-coming, in-your-face folk-county-rock bands just don’t do it for you, then you would’ve been wise to cross to the other side of the street as the midnight hour approached. Looking and sounding every bit like the next big thing, Houndmouth set the second sold-out crowd in as many nights ablaze with their high-energy show.

It’s a simple formula—good songs, played well. Houndmouth tore through most of their debut, From the Hills Below the City, mixing in sweet harmonies (loud and quiet) and guitar-solo jams, often within the same song. “Krampus” was an early set highlight and a model for the rest of the night: cathartic vocals, built to electric heights until the room was filled with people singing along and pumping their fists. “Hey Rose” mixed honky-tonk licks with evocative lyrics, like “wash your face and change your frame of mind,” and ended with one of those can’t-miss guitar solos from atop the drum riser.

The set list was filled with a mix of tour-sharpened album material, several new songs and a few covers. So their glorious “Halfway to Hardinsburg” came after a tasty Beatles couplet of “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight,” and a new one had them singing about “Mama’s in the kitchen.” The 70-minute set ended in big fashion with a build-’em-up rock-out of “Penitentiary” and a soul-lifting everyone-sings cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” with members of opener the Wheeler Brothers helping make big and loud bigger and louder. The band announced they’d return for multiple shows in bigger rooms, for sure, in the winter. So if you have no desire to see one of the best on-the-rise bands going right now, I strongly advise you to not grab tickets for those shows right away.
—A. Stein




Vampire Weekend Continue to Rise

September 23rd, 2013

Vampire Weekend – Barclays Center – September 20, 2013

In 1965, the Beatles made a horde of shrieking girls convulse and fall apart at Shea Stadium. In the process, the Fab Four kicked off an era of arena rock that saw bands like Led Zeppelin and the Who touring the country and making gobs of money, all the while pouring out their hearts onstage. That time has since dissipated for rock bands over the past few decades—aside from occasional reunion tours, there are only a handful of groups from that era still packing big venues.

But a new generation of rockers, like Vampire Weekend on Friday night at Barclays Center, is now playing arenas. Of course, the local quartet is a far cry from the anthemic rock of ’70s—their success stems from the fact that their songs are so different from something like “Stairway to Heaven”—but with their constantly evolving style and deep catalog, they’re now able to fill increasingly bigger rooms.

All the familiar markers of a great arena-rock show were there on Friday night, with thousands of fans screaming as they recognized songs like “Oxford Comma” and “Cousins,” band-induced crowd participation and a theatrical, engaging light show. Drummer Chris Tomson even changed costumes throughout the night, wearing three different versions of Nets jerseys, by my count. And frontman Ezra Koenig’s focused intensity anchored the incredibly tight band as they played through their catalog, which will no doubt be considered classic in time. It was a night that proved that Vampire Weekend will soon take their place near the top of the musical totem pole. —Alex Kapelman

Photos courtesy of Dana Kandic | www.danakandic.com


The Wildhearts Return, Come to Brooklyn

May 31st, 2013

It’s not often that a band is compared to both the Beatles and Metallica. But thanks to their heavy metal sound and melodic pop hooks, this has often been the case with the Wildhearts. The English group, now a quartet with Ginger (vocals and guitar), CJ (guitar and vocals), Ritch Battersby (drums) and “Random” John Poole (bass), originally formed in 1989. Making music has never been a problem for these guys: They released eight studio albums over the course of 16 years, the last of which being Chutzpah! (stream it below), and had several Top 20 singles. But, nevertheless, there were always problems along the way—band members getting replaced, fighting with record companies, drugs, depression and multiple hiatuses. The most recent one began in 2010 and lasted until this past December, when, newly regrouped, they played a sold-out show in London. It went so well that they did another four dates across the UK. And that went so well that the Wildhearts  (above, performing “I Wanna Go Where the People Go”) are coming our way to play Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night, doing their “greatest hits and finest moments” from their entire catalog. And as an additional bonus, the Ginger Wildheart Band play Mercury Lounge the next night.