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Little Dragon – Terminal 5 – June 20, 2014
I can remember it like it was yesterday. A magical summer day two years back after a downpour rinsed off Brooklyn and the steamy heat rose to engulf the members of Little Dragon as they stepped onstage at Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell. The Swedish electro group, led by Yukimi Nagano, had been touring in support of their latest, Ritual Union. I had just recently returned from Sweden where I had attended a wedding, and coincidentally the happy couple danced the night away with me that unforgettable evening. Needless to say the quartet had a lot to live up to that summer night.
Playing the first of two sold-out shows at Terminal 5 on Friday night, Nagano and gang slowly marched onstage with drummer Erik Bodin leading the procession dressed in a black unitard replete with sewn-on DayGlo flowers. Fans knew they were in for a treat. Opening with “Mirror,” from their recent release, Nabuma Rubberband, the frontwoman swayed in her knee-high socks and sparkly dress. The crowd erupted for “Please Turn,” from Ritual Union, as a sea of bodies undulated across the dance floor. Nagano got into her groove twirling and shaking her tambourine to “Underbart,” which led into claps from the elated audience for “Crystalfilm.” Expressing their joy to be back in New York City, the lady of the night informed revelers that it was Midsummer’s Eve, a big holiday for Swedes in which “everyone gets crazy and dances around.”
No difference on Friday in New York City. In the meat of the set, “Ritual Union” and the new LP’s lead single, “Klapp Klapp,” climaxed the night with a confetti-cannon explosion. How’s that for a celebration? A short exit barely fooled the audience into thinking that there wouldn’t be an encore, as the Swedes returned promptly with a trio of treats: Nabuma Rubberband’s title track, plus oldies but goodies “Runabout” and “Twice.” As if a confetti cannon weren’t enough, a balloon drop was perfectly triggered when the second-to-last song ended, leaving a cloud of inflated friends looming. Terminal 5 was a flurry of Midsummer converts as they exited the venue against stray balloons following them into the night. —Sharlene Chiu
The National – Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Bandshell – June 19, 2014
The National have become the kind of band that’s comparable to a loyal friend—someone you hear from at the turning of the seasons and make time to meet up with in a place that allows for conversation, perhaps over a Scotch. The meeting place last night was the enchanting confines of Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell, where the band concluded a three-night run in a triumphant mood, performing as the ambassadors they’ve become in the current realm of alternative rock.
The National make intimate and revealing music that’s emboldened by lush, emphatic musical composition. Vocalist-slash-existentialist Matt Berninger uses his aching baritone to establish intimacy with the listener, candid and honest about life’s troubles and his personal acquaintance with them. And behind Berninger’s stories of vulnerability hovers the musician tandem of brothers Dessner and Devendorf, there to paint in the emotive score, stirring in the drama and romance by using rock instruments with an approach closer to the aims of a symphony. For all of Berninger’s cerebral and introspective writing, the National have always brought out their impact more deeply through the bolstering drumming of Bryan Devendorf. “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” “Secret Meeting,” “Anyone’s Ghost” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” all charging percussive numbers, set a momentous tone and announced the band’s confidence on the grand stage.
Satisfied that the crowd was sufficiently captivated, the National took their time with the more sprawling pieces, “Afraid of Everyone” and “This Is The Last time.” And then by shifting up a notch with the galloping of “Squalor Victoria” and the panicked kicking of “Brainy,” they not only indicated the depth of each of their albums but also a sensibility of molding different frames of a live performance toward distinct shifts in mood and timbre. “England” directly following “Pink Rabbits” blended in elegantly near the set’s end before giving way to the show’s crescendo anthems, “Fake Empire,” “Graceless” and “Mr. November.” The National are indeed like old friends, purposeful and patient with their messages, reliably planted in their character, encouraging us to look upon triumph and disaster with equal measure and showing us the bravery of facing it all through their music. —Charles Steinberg
Tigers Jaw – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 18, 2014
Last summer there was a collective freak-out in the emo and pop-punk-revival scene when word quickly spread of the imminent breakup of scene darlings Tigers Jaw. The Scranton, Pa., band eventually quelled those unfounded rumors by announcing a second full-length and eventually more touring. And last night they put on an excellent set for a rambunctious crowd at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Led by Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh, the remaining core from the original lineup, the five-piece’s hour-long set celebrated the arrival of summer for the young crowd as much as it was a “welcome back” of sorts for the group.
The happy atmosphere was well justified: Collins and Walsh’s harmonies superbly blended together, as did her synth with his lead guitar—which was supported by another guitarist, Jake Woodruff. People rushed the stage, surfed the crowd and dove from the stage from the outset, when the band kicked off their performance with “The Sun,” the sing-and-shout-along opening track from their revered 2008 self-titled album.
Amidst all that clatter, things were so messy that by the second song one fan’s iPhone-lit search for his lost glasses turned up multiple pairs, only to discover that none of them were his. A few songs later he ended the search and continued hopping around, a smile on his face as he sang along. While it undoubtedly would’ve been a big loss had Tigers Jaw actually called it quits, last night proved that they’ll have a hold on their little corner the scene for as long as they please. —Sean O’Kane
The Preatures – The Bowery Ballroom – June 9, 2014
Taking a break from recording their new album, the Preatures traveled all the way from Australia to kick off a summer tour that will undoubtedly build on the buzz they began generating in the last year. And while half of the sold-out crowd last night at The Bowery Ballroom was apparently still nursing Governors Ball hangovers (discussions of which weekend set was the best and tales of festival survival were abound), the room’s energy level was on high for the quintet’s killer set.
Plenty of comparisons have been (and will be drawn) between singer Isabella “Izzi” Manfredi and other powerful band leaders, like Mick Jagger or Chrissie Hynde, but the truth is that she’s already carved her own unique space. Manfredi’s versatile, unwavering voice is strong on steamy, slow affairs like the moody keyboard ballad “Two Tone Melody,” but she can also wrap those notes in some high-energy shouts and wails on songs like the ’80s dance rock-ish “Is This How You Feel.” Meanwhile, the other band members around her have crafted an excellent, tight sound that, like Manfredi’s voice, is supremely versatile. Gideon Bensen’s smooth voice backs Manfredi’s well, and Jack Moffitt’s effortless lead guitar is a marvel on its own.
Compared to their Mercury Lounge show this past March, there was even more recognition from audience members, and those who didn’t already know the Preatures were shouting for more by the end of the short set. Although still a fairly new band, the Preatures seem to have just about everything that would indicate their successful rise is a long way from stopping, and last night’s set proved to be no different. Although fans were still asking for more following the show’s conclusion, they were out early enough to do what so many New Yorkers are using this week for after this festival weekend: to catch up on some sleep. But chances are they’ll be dreaming of the Preatures. —Sean O’Kane
Spanish Gold – Mercury Lounge – June 3, 2014
As a freelancer, you’re constantly answering questions like “Where are you working now?” and “What’s next?”—or even “How do you keep all that straight?” These questions are something I’d imagine Spanish Gold’s Dante Schwebel and Patrick Hallahan are also used to answering, considering they’ve been a part of a number of different bands over the past few years, all which led them here.
Schwebel bounced around the country with Texas rockers Hacienda for a few years, recently opened for Pink with City and Colour, and he also toured as Dan Auerbach’s lead guitarist (a tour that stopped at Webster Hall in 2009). Hallahan, who is better known for his role as My Morning Jacket’s rhythm keeper, manned drums and percussion on that tour. The two added another killer lead guitarist in Adrian Quesada, plus a bassist and two singers (one on keys, one on percussion), and voilà: Spanish Gold.
Last night, the experienced musicians sounded far better than a new band normally does, and the Southwestern-rock sound had Mercury Lounge in party mode from the first song to the last, a surprising yet remarkable cover of Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison.” (Schwebel joked that since they had run out of songs to play they might as well do something with some “funk.”) The room was just about completely full for the late-night set thanks in part to the band’s origin story, but they all certainly seemed happy to keep jamming in this current arrangement for a while to come. If not, at least we’ll know it won’t be long before we get to see the members of Spanish Gold rock out as something else. —Sean O’Kane
Tags: Bell Biv Devoe, City and Colour, Dan Auerbach, Dante Schwebel, Hacienda, Mercury Lounge, My Morning Jacket, Patrick Hallahan, Photos, Pink, Review, Spanish Gold
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