The Bright Light Social Hour Delivers the Fun

August 9th, 2012

The Bright Light Social Hour – The Bowery Ballroom – August 8, 2012

When on the road, the conventional wisdom is to travel light. Well, I don’t think a band has done more traveling the last couple of years than the Bright Light Social Hour, whose tour dates read more like a stewardess’s work schedule than a rock band’s itinerary. Be that as it may, there is nothing travel size about the sound BLSH brought to a rowdy Bowery Ballroom crowd Wednesday night for their first headlining gig in the city. With so many shows night in and night out, you’d think it’d be difficult to make it count every time, but with a name that brings to mind the anything-goes mentality of a Japanese game show, the band delivered the fun like few others I’ve seen this year.

The set opened with a stretch of tried and true material that showed how nonstop gigging strengthens a band’s chops. “Sweet Madeleine” started off things with the group’s bluesy, Southern rock side, followed by “Shanty,” which fed into the disco dance party with an infectious keyboard lick. By the third song, “Bare Hands Bare Feet,” all gears were firing with A.J. Vincent moving to an in-your-face keytar while drummer Joseph Mirasole unleashed the first of many heavy-artillery assaults. The quartet, rounded out by bassist Jack O’Brien and guitarist Curtis Roush, relied equally on all four members, sharing vocal duties throughout, each bringing a different edge to the sound. The result was a wide-ranging, genre-busting affair: songs starting out in one direction only to flip to another like a boat zigzagging across the International Date Line. Nearly every piece found a moment to breathe, either in a long-building guitar solo, a heavy booty-shaking groove or just an awe-inspiring bout of work from Mirasole. The one common thread running through every tune was the high-energy, pump-your-fists fun the music inspired in the crowd. Apparently these guys can fit one hell of a party in their carry-on.

Midway through, the effusive O’Brien announced they’d be trying some new material. Typically when a band announces the new-material portion of the set, it’s a way of hanging a PARDON OUR APPEARANCE DURING RENOVATIONS sign on the door. But last night it was the most turbulent, adventurous, exciting “Holy hell!” part of the show. The highlight was “Maybe I Do,” which started off as a fantastic rock song that segued into an astounding build-and-release techno jam, hinting at even bigger and better things. At this point the crowd was filled with wide smiles and thoughts of how many more miles until these new songs were the old ones and what that might bring. The set closed in predictably epic fashion, a bad-to-the-bone cover of “Young Man Blues,” the band cresting between vintage the Who and Led Zeppelin. It was a shade past midnight when the encore, another cover, “Mannish Boy,” started and it was almost 12:20 when it finished with as much manic energy as it had begun. —A. Stein