Tag Archives: Beatles

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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.

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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

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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

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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.)

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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.

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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

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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

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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

 

 

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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

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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.

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A Young Talent on the Rise

January 15th, 2013

Jake Bugg – The Bowery Ballroom – January 14, 2013


With the start of the New Year, I like to scour for new artists and inevitably ask my pals on the other side of the pond for recommendations. And my music-loving Brit threw out Jake Bugg, who she’d recently seen live. She described Bugg as a young chap, at the tender age of 18, who sounds like Bob Dylan. Curiously though, in a recent interview in The Telegraph, he stated, “Bob Dylan’s cool, you know, he’s great, but he’s not a major influence.” Bugg cites Donovan, the Beatles, Johnny Cash and Jimi Hendrix instead. Needless to say, I was interested.

It was a first for me to see absolutely no merchandise out before heading up the stairs of The Bowery Ballroom to witness the Nottingham wunderkind. Bugg’s self-titled debut album has not yet been released in the United States, but you couldn’t tell from Monday’s sold-out crowd. He descended onto the stage wearing a Fred Perry track jacket zipped up all the way and started with the rollicking “Kentucky,” which had onlookers stomping along from the start. He didn’t say much between songs except to express gratitude and to make brief introductions. Instead, Bugg let his music speak for him. Offering a small description for “Trouble Town” as a song about where he was from, he strummed his acoustic guitar while fans cheered and chanted the song’s title.

Upon its conclusion, a female attendee screamed, “My boyfriend,” which elicited an echo effect amongst female and male fans. After shredding on an electric guitar like his idol Hendrix on “Ballad of Mr. Jones,” Bugg took the stage solo for “Someone Told Me,” the oldie “Country Song” and “Simple as This,” which all brilliantly showcased his reedy voice against delicate guitar plucks. Fans perked up for the clap-happy “Two Fingers,” Johnny Cash–influenced “Taste It” and “Lightning Bolt,” which sounded like a more-rocking Moldy Peaches track. Saving the best for the last, Bugg encored with his first live performance of “Broken” and a cover of Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” But no one left with any blues—only admiration and awe for this young talent only beginning to spark. —Sharlene Chiu

 

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Zeus, the God of Brown Liquor

August 6th, 2012

Zeus – Mercury Lounge – August 3, 2012


You might expect a band with a name like Zeus to immediately blast you with a bolt of lightning every time they take the stage. But, as they proved again at Mercury Lounge on Friday night, this Toronto quartet doesn’t work like that. Opening with “Kindergarten,” off 2010’s Say Us, they were initially just another Beatles-esque rock and roll band. A very good rock and roll band, sure, but … then the second tune, “Love/Pain,” from this year’s under-the-radar-good Busting Visions, kicked in with its heavy, dark-keys riff and groovy energy, and from there Zeus slowly drew in the crowd.

By the time the third song—the “Greater Times on the Wayside/River by the Garden” couplet—got into gear, the audience began to understand that Zeus is like a good whiskey: Sure it’ll get you drunk, but it’s also a swirl of flavors to be savored. The group split the set between both albums (plus one brand new in-progress song) while showing the easy chemistry and the ragged wear of years on the road. From psychedelic, on “With Eyes Closed,” to Steely Dan–like prog, on “Love Is a Game,” with a note of an alt-country twang throughout, Zeus wove a complete sound. I’d like to be able to review their show without mentioning their cover of “That’s All” by Genesis, but the drum-heavy, you-didn’t-realize-how-great-this-song-is version is the unqualified centerpiece of the set.

Sometimes a crowd trends toward the back of the room, weekend socializing with music in the background. And other times the audience pushes to the front, scrounging for dance space as close to the music as possible. Friday’s midnight crowd was decidedly in the latter category, the already converted singing along, with the freshly made fans wondering what crept up on them like that. The set closed with the single off the new album, “Are You Gonna Waste My Time?,” which played like one of the better rock songs you’ll hear this year. And it was followed by a one-two encore punch of “Marching Through Your Head” and a fantastic “The Renegade.” Maybe it wasn’t a bolt of lightning, but really, who wants to get struck by lightning? —A. Stein