Tag Archives: Paul Simon

cat_preview

Dan Croll Plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday Night

June 13th, 2014

He may be young, but there’s no doubting 23-year-old Dan Croll’s talent. The English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist mashes together folk sensibilities, electronic beats, sweet melodies, African rhythyms and a healthy dose of guitar hooks to make his own brand of smart synth pop, featured prominently on Croll’s debut album, the vibrant Sweet Disarray (stream it below), which came out earlier this year. The LP has earned him comparisons to Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend, and AllMusic hails Croll (above, doing “From Nowhere” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!) for his songwriting chops and “forward-looking experimentalism.” See him perform live on Sunday at Music Hall of Williamsburg as part of Northside Festival. I Am Oak open the show.

cat_reviews

Robert Ellis Plays Against Type at Mercury Lounge

February 19th, 2014

Robert Ellis – Mercury Lounge – February 18, 2014

To look at them take the stage at Mercury Lounge last night, Robert Ellis and his band had all the markings of a good country music band. There was a pedal-steel player there; the tall, thin bass player was dressed all in black except for the white cowboy hat; and Ellis’s guitar strap was embroidered with his name in big blue letters. And, yes, they were pretty darn good playing country-flavored rock and roll, but time and again throughout the show, they played against type and transcended genre altogether.

They opened with “Westbound Train,” Ellis’s voice prominent in the mix before the entire band kicked in. From there, most of the set highlighted songs from Ellis’s new album, The Lights from the Chemical Plant. One thing that became clear is that the material is not very happy. “Good Intentions,” about infidelity, featured angry overlapping guitar solos, a short and snappy argument while the steel guitar sadly moaned. The mix of two guitars and a pedal steel seemed to offer an array of sounds and emotions from which to draw. “Pride” had a jazzy bridge with each guitar adding small, melodic pieces to the overall whole. Ellis proved himself to be proficient at both the singing and the songwriting, one of those rare talents blessed with a distinctive voice and the knack for penning songs to perfectly match it. This was apparent on tunes like “Steady as the Rising Sun” and later his solo take on “The Tour Song”—his vocals like sweet syrup to pour over a stack of pancakes.

Still, throughout the night, Ellis went out of his way to highlight his excellent band, particularly Kelly Doyle on Telecaster, who matched Ellis leading the band through several surprising musical twists. “Only Lies” bounced on a shuffle from drummer Dennis Ryan (from Deer Tick) while Ellis and Doyle showed off some deft guitar playing. The highlight of the night was probably “Houston,” which began as another emotional melody and then flipped into an up-tempo jam, guitars and steel expertly zigging and zagging. The end of the show finally strayed from the new album as the band loosened up even more with “Pitching,” an instrumental written by Doyle that was more jazz rock than anything you’d hear in Nashville, and two covers—a perfect take on Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” and a high-energy romp on Richard Thompson’s straight-country “Tear Stained Letter”—that displayed the band’s breadth and skill. The show concluded with what Ellis called a traditional bluegrass tune about growing up in the Bible Belt, “Sing Along.” I don’t know what kind of bluegrass Ellis is used to, but his version opened with several minutes of atypical noise jamming before careening into another genre-busting song. Yeah, I guess for Robert Ellis, that’s what passes for traditional. —A. Stein

 

 

cat_preview

Two Big Local Bands Take the Stage at Barclays Center

September 19th, 2013

Earlier this year, art-punk trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs—frontwoman Karen O, drummer Brian Chase and guitarist Nick Zinner—released their fourth full-length, Mosquito (stream it below). The album includes production work from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek among others, and in praising it, the A.V. Club says the album “takes a much more open-ended, and less studied, approach to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ electric eccentricity.” Of course, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (above, performing “Sacrilege” on Late Show with David Letterman) are most known for the fiery live performances, and you can see these hometown musical heroes tonight at Barclays Center. But do yourself a favor and get there early enough to see Har Mar Superstar.

Another big local band, Vampire Weekend—college buddies Ezra Koenig (vocals and guitar), Chris Baio (bass and vocals), Rostam Batmanglij (keys and vocals) and Chris Tomson (drums)—also put out an acclaimed new album this year, Modern Vampires of the City (stream it below). The band’s much-praised third LP is a bit of a departure, abandoning the post-college themes of their previous work, but gaining plaudits in the process, with Rolling Stone winningly comparing the quartet’s new tunes to Paul Simon and Tom Petty. But, like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend (above, doing “Diane Young” on Saturday Night Live) are best experienced live. And alongside Solange and Sky Ferreira, they play Barclays Center tomorrow night.

cat_reviews

A Wild Night of Music at Mercury Lounge

July 3rd, 2013

Noah and the Megafauna/Jenny O. – Mercury Lounge – July 2, 2013


What do you call the Tuesday night of a three-day workweek? Regardless, it can throw the week off-kilter a bit, which is fine, because the music onstage last night at Mercury Lounge was also slightly off-kilter, in a very good way. Noah and the Megafauna headlined the early show, bringing to mind some sort of biblical flooding and pairs of animals crammed onto a boat. Well, there was plenty of cramming going on, with 10 musicians onstage, including a pair of guitars, a violin and a three-person reed section. The musical mix was about as motley as the ark must have been, a salad of gypsy jazz, Dixieland and baroque pop, surprisingly swinging and lots of fun. Definitely not the kind of sound the Merc is accustomed to, but maybe that was the point. Probably those left off the ark would’ve enjoyed it best. This was a set of songs for sinners, like “Moan All Night” with a dark, Arabian energy featuring solos from pretty much everyone. In between songs, the eponymous Noah sipped beer with one hand and did shots with the other, running the band like a mishmash jam session at a house party in ’30s Paris. After one slowed-down song in the middle of the show, things picked up with a series of exotic grooves, the band clicking on “On and On” amongst others.

The late-show headliner, Jenny O., is from Los Angeles by way of the “tri-state area,” which I believe is a euphemism for Long Island. Her music was a mélange of influences and styles, evoking Fleetwood Mac, Edie Brickell and Creedence Clearwater Revival throughout the set. She opened with “Learned My Lessons,” featuring a Simon & Garfunkel–feelin’ groovy vibe and followed it up with the dreamy, twangy title track off her wonderful new album, Automechanic. Jenny O. had a two-shots-and-two-tokes kind of giddiness going on, teetering a bit at the start, whether part of her thing or not. The band, dubbed the High Society, kept that precipice-dangling energy and focused it admirably. I was absolutely flummoxed when she announced a few songs later that this was actually her first time playing with them—and that they had only met a few hours earlier.

As the set unfolded, mostly with material off the new album, Jenny O. sharpened considerably, switching to electric guitar for some added ferocity. After a couple of solo acoustic numbers, including a cover of the Whigs’ “Rock and Roll Forever,” the show really got moving. “Come Get Me” was high-energy fun with a rocking guitar solo, and “Lazy Jane” was a highlight, the band tight as a veteran touring act and Jenny O. sounding like a slow-burning Stevie Nicks. The singer-songwriter’s voice was like a chameleon, her banter flavored with a mix of Southern, Los Angeles and New York accents, and her singing almost beautiful but absolutely enchanting. When the band exhausted all their prepared material, she returned for a solo encore, fulfilling the request for “Won’t Let You Leave” with her strongest vocal performance of the night and adding an unwound cover
of Paul Simon’s “Peace Like a River,” perfectly capping off this rare Thednesday night. —A. Stein

cat_preview

The Life-Affirming Power of Lord Huron

February 25th, 2013

Lord Huron – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 23, 2013


The expansive, hazy mountain range painted on the backdrop that decked the stage for Los Angeles band Lord Huron’s sold-out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night perfectly set the tone for the band’s performance. The types of big thoughts that can pass through one’s mind when looking at such a perfect panorama—life, death, love, the wonders of nature—are all themes that pervade the five-piece’s sentimental debut album, last year’s Lonesome Dreams.

Full of jaunty, layered guitars and vocal harmonies, Lord Huron at times evoked the uplifting alt-country of My Morning Jacket or the Afrobeat fusion of Paul Simon’s Graceland, along with slow-building cinematic swells and joyful moments begging to be clapped along to. Although Lord Huron’s recorded music doesn’t shy away from the understated and mellow, the live version of numbers like “She Lit a Fire” and “The Problem with Your Daughter” had a much sharper bite than their album counterparts, while meditative number “The Ghost on the Shore” was wisely left in its minimal state.

The group’s lone cover of the night, “Strangers” by the Kinks, fit in well with the reflective, exploratory theme of the show, and its lyrics “If I feel tomorrow like I feel today/ We’ll take what we want and give the rest away/ Strangers on this road we are on/ We are not two we are one” seem indirectly referenced in the sentiment of Lord Huron’s lyric: “Out there’s a world that calls for me, girl, heading out into the unknown/ Well if there are strangers and all kinds of danger, please don’t say I’m going alone,” which singer Ben Schneider contemplates on “Ends of the Earth.” Lord Huron’s combination of contagious melodies with the lyrical voice of a philosophical and wonder-filled world traveler clearly resonates with crowds, and as everyone sang and danced along, the vibe inside Music Hall of Williamsburg was as positive and life-affirming as it might be around a campfire, if those misty mountain ranges in the background were real. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

Exclusive Video: Alt-J Perform in a Button Shop

October 18th, 2012

In a short time, Alt-J, four lads from Leeds, have become known for their layered, folk-influenced dub music called folk-step. In an Upper East Side button shop, Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton perform “Ripe & Ruin” for The Bowery Presents Live channel on YouTube. The song is an a cappella interlude from their debut album, An Awesome Wave, which BBC Music says, “spans every workable idea, genre and influence that can be crammed under the guitar-music umbrella, yet it never feels disorientating.”

While riding around in a van, the quartet discuss listening to Spice Girls, Eurythmics and Paul Simon as kids, who got them into music and how their band’s formative moments happened in a college laundry room. Watch the interview: http://tbp.im/QuNe7J. And subscribe to The Bowery Presents Live to watch more performances and interviews like these, and the latest info on our upcoming live-streaming shows.