Lambchop – The Bowery Ballroom – March 30, 2017
There’s a deep reverence fans have for Lambchop—you can hear it in the silence that takes over the audience right before the band begins to play. Last night at The Bowery Ballroom, this silence left nothing but the sounds of Delancey Street traffic and bartenders shaking up cocktails in the few seconds Lambchop’s music began to fill the void. Frontman Kurt Wagner treats his music the way a painter would: Each album is a chance for reinvention, with different media opening up the possibilities of what fills the canvas. For the latest Lambchop album, FLOTUS, the new medium is electronic beats and vocal effects, splintering Wagner’s gentle yet husky baritone voice into a full landscape of melody.
On the set-opening “NIV,” Wagner’s voice sounded almost alien, grounded only by the song’s gentle arpeggios. Taking a page out of the book of their friends in Yo La Tengo, Wagner knew that if he could milk the power out of a song’s quieter moments, it would only feel more powerful as the song grew louder. On “The Hustle,” this slow build from powerful soft to powerful loud happened slowly yet still managed to somehow catch concertgoers off guard. These new sounds they’re playing with at this point in their long career blow sonic possibilities wide open. “Directions to the Can” was almost like trip-hop and had Wagner full-out dancing by the track’s conclusion. “In Care of 8675309” featured a refrain that sounded like it was trying to break free from the song after each verse.
“This next song Kurt wrote while we were playing the last one,” said the always-wisecracking keyboardist Tony Crow as he introduced “The New Cobweb of Summer.” Crow’s stage banter is the stuff of legend, itself worth the price of admission. “It’s not as hard as it looks, Kurt. A lot of things are harder,” he added after Wagner introduced him, going on to list a series of activities that included kayaking and cooking. Lambchop finished with the delicately acoustic “My Blue Wave” and a gorgeous rendition of Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” the song sounding next to nothing like the original. Consider it a painter’s take on the landscape before him with the supplies at hand. Lucky for Lambchop fans, Wagner’s art supplies seem endless. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks
Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com