From Your TV to the Lower East Side

June 17th, 2010

The Heavy – The Bowery Ballroom – June 16, 2010

Sometimes you catch the buzz in time and sometimes it’s just too late. It was certainly the latter for me with the Heavy. The English quartet had a sold-out Bowery Ballroom crowd spilling out of the performance space Wednesday night. With a full suite of back-up singers and a horn section behind the band, frontman Kelvin Swaby powered a set that had one energy level, high, and one volume, loud. The weekly planner may have read Wednesday, but with a high-octane blend of soul, rock, ska and R&B, it certainly felt like Saturday night for all those inside.

Swaby was a force onstage, running the show like a rhetorical conversation with the audience, which he referred to lovingly as “NYC,” as if they were playing to the entire municipality. (“NYC, can we play some rock and roll?”) Those in the crowd obliged unconditionally: When asked to scream, they screamed. When asked to howl like wolves, they howled. When asked to throw their arms in the air, the arms went up. In turn they were rewarded with a full-fledged house party and, yes, even got to hear the Heavy’s as-seen-on-TV “that song” (“How You Like Me Now?”), which closed out the set. But midway through, when asked to jump up and down, to rage with the punk-soul hybrid pounding in the incense-tinged air and feed the band the same energy they were offering, the audience mostly waved their arms in a feigned jumping motion. I guess it was still Wednesday after all. —A. Stein