Small Black Return Home to End Tour at The Bowery Ballroom

April 14th, 2014

Small Black – The Bowery Ballroom – April 13, 2014

With spring finally peaking into bloom, New Yorkers need the right soundtrack to shake them from their wintry doldrums. So might I suggest the Brooklyn-based Small Black’s
Limits of Desire? Their label, Jagjaguwar, provides a descriptive hint in the right direction: “Tonally the songs sweep and glide over lush keys, bolstered by lyrics that illustrate the semi-abstract moments of lost opportunities and misread signs…. They’re smart pop bangers tinged with a specific brand of melancholy that slowly build to night-affirming climaxes.” With a new five-song EP, Real People, the quartet—singer Josh Hayden Kolenik, guitarist-keyboardist Ryan Heyner, bassist Juan Pieczanski and drummer Jeff Curtin—goes deeper into the synth-pop sensibilities touched upon in earlier works.

The local lads returned home to play The Bowery Ballroom Sunday evening to end their six-week tour. The slow build of bass of the opener, “Free at Dawn,” invited concertgoers to warm up for the dance party that would soon ensue. Fans immediately cheered for an old favorite, “Despicable Dogs,” from Small Black’s self-titled EP as they bounced about the dance floor. After first dedicating the yacht-rock “Sophie” to their tour mates, Snowmine, Kolenik continued by offering “Proper Spirit” for his father, who was up in the balcony. In a rare moment, the lead singer said the band would cover ’80s Glaswegian synth-rockers the Blue Nile’s “The Downtown Lights.” (The Scottish group was a huge influence on the frontman, and he even encouraged folks to pick up the album.)

The set ended with older material, including “Photojournalist,” from 2010’s New Chain, and the popular “No Stranger.” With the house lights on, many in the crowd headed toward the exits, but those who departed would be sad to know that it was a false ending. The lights quickly dimmed and the quartet returned to the stage. “This is a journey,” declared Kolenik as the encore commenced with “Outskirts.” To fully close out the evening—and the tour—Small Black dug deep for oldie but goodie “Bad Lover.” —Sharlene Chiu