Tag Archives: Charles Steinberg

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Ought Find Magic at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday Night

April 9th, 2018

Ought – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 6, 2018

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

Montreal’s Ought still feel like the kind of band that’s this wonderful secret you can’t wait to tell someone about. Their fans, who have gradually grown in number and in their affections since the quartet’s 2014 debut, More Than Any Other Day, all seem to share that sparkle of knowing about greatness yet to be widely discovered. As it turns out, there are a bunch of those fans in New York City, as evidenced by Ought packing them into Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night. “Into the Sea,” off Ought’s latest and most impressive album, Room Inside the World, sent an instant jolt into the air with its churning, essentially post-punk bassline that implored the bodies in the room, helpless to its charms, to bounce and sway. That energy kept mounting as the show continued in a blissful blur, picking up steam with other striking post-punk-revival delights off the new album, like “Disaffectation,” “These 3 Things” and “Take Everything.”

To bring heart rates down some, the bluesy gospel stride of “Desire” provided respite. For a song recorded with and carried by a 70-piece choir, the live rendition was still decidedly full and radiant, due to precisely synced musicianship and frontman Tim Darcy’s sonorous bellow. His stage presence was also undeniable. It’s meant as a great compliment to describe him as a grown and elongated version of the boy protagonist of Moonrise Kingdom, Sam. (Ought are also clearly influenced by Wes Anderson favorites like the Velvet Underground, the Clash and the Ramones, to name a few.) As he swung a guitar around in awkward angularity, occasionally flipping back his hair with a quick on-beat head shake, Darcy easily won over everyone in the crowd.

Of course, the music took care of that, too, thanks to the band’s consummate professionalism. Behind Darcy, bassist Ben Stidworthy, keyboardist Matt May and drummer Tim Keen played so fluidly as to sound like the music wasn’t being performed with effort and strained focus, so much as it was imagined into existence in the way the group ideally wanted it to sound. No beat was skipped or note rushed as songs from earlier records populated the back half of the show, some stretched and probed in extended forms, as if searching for a bit of ephemeral magic. There was plenty to be found, especially on the irresistible grooviness of “Habit.” By the encore, it felt like the room was in a collective trance and the very gracious Ought happily played a few more for an audience not shy in showing appreciation for them. And dancing loosely with a grin, you kind of thought that Ought were a secret you wish you could keep. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

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LCD Soundsystem Leave Them Wanting More at Brooklyn Steel

December 20th, 2017

LCD Soundsystem – Brooklyn Steel – December 19, 2017


James Murphy and his LCD Soundsystem lot are all too aware of the hype that surrounds their live performances. The collective that has reemerged from their “breakup” in 2011 in much the same arrangement, and with the addition of some new blood, recognizes the buildup prior to when everyone takes their positions onstage in their stacked pyramid instrumental setup that surrounds the spotlit Murphy, the master of ceremonies. They recognize the level of great expectation and with the poise of players in long-run theater, unflinchingly rise to the occasion. Murphy has essentially admitted that he was fooling himself to think that he could walk away from the life of making music and performing it with LCD Soundsystem. As evidenced at Brooklyn Steel last night throughout the seventh show in a run of 10, he needs that outlet. It’s too much of what he is. As you find yourself moved by the power and grace of his singing voice over primal dance grooves that don’t feel as if they have a discernible beginning or ending, it becomes clear that he was too much of a comet to hide for too long and the crew of old friends are the players that form around him like a solar system.

Putting on a good show is about reps. Any performer would tell you that. To go along with this year’s new album, American Dream, LCD Soundsystem have been getting plenty of them, having put on strings of consecutive shows that have become residencies at their new Brooklyn home. What’s so rewarding is that they have risen to that rarified place of performance where you know what songs are coming and yet when they’re played with that special mix of timepiece precision and instinctive improvisational flair sprung from the raw energy of the moment, you feel like you’re experiencing a favorite song for the first time, like what it felt like to walk through the woods stoned for the first time. Therein lies the unique magic of an LCD Soundsystem show, and why it never loses its vitality even after the second, fifth or seventh time you’ve seen it. The second-nature orchestration of playing parts all churning in sync is well oiled at this point and just takes off. It’s hard to imagine a better tone-setter to begin a night with than “Yr City’s a Sucker.” It holds that raw NYC cold-steel break-loop groove, priming everyone for the party that’s about to ensue.

The sequence of hits that followed was kind of mind boggling: “I Can Change,” absolutely resplendent live, “Get Innocuous,” “Tribulations,” “You Wanted a Hit” all unravel and ascend to their own euphoric peaks, and you’re so wrapped up that you don’t even realize songs like “Someone Great,” “Dance Yrself Clean” and the dizzying rapture of “All My Friends” are still ahead. Tracks from the new album are sprinkled in almost inconspicuously as the ’80s synth romanticism of “Oh Baby” drops the energy down into a beautiful lull. It was one of those shows that still makes you feel cool that you could get into and no matter how big the group’s become, they still extend meaty-jam grooves like basement bands that don’t know how to stop. They are a unique combination of musicians who understand how and when to give the crowd exactly what they’ve come for, a release into the frenzy of their extended plays. Almost right away, you see what all the fuss is about. LCD Soundsystem are the kind of band that snaps you out of the conversation you’re having with the person you invited to get to know, and suddenly you’re both dancing irresistibly with broad smiles. And when you walk away with that buzz that rolls on like one of their live songs, you know it’s an experience you’ll go back for as many times as you can. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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Leif Vollebekk Chats and Tells Stories at Rough Trade NYC on Friday

December 18th, 2017

Leif Vollebekk – Rough Trade NYC – December 15, 2017


Leif Vollebekk has a lot to say. At times during a snowy Friday night at Rough Trade NYC made warm by the cheer brought by the Ottawa, Ont., native’s visceral and fatty folk cuts, he seemed more eager to talk to the audience than to play the songs that framed his tangents. But this is simply because Vollebekk’s rich organ-and-guitar-laden outpouring is so effortless. Song is his first language and its communication seems like second nature. His is the kind of voice that makes you let down your guard. Once his country-boy rasp reaches you, you allow it in because it speaks of travels you’ve taken or have dreamed of taking and so many of the relatable feelings of living through them.

Vollebbekk is a torchbearer for the original soul and folk artists of the 20th century, those who we can now only listen to through earphones. This is why seeing him channel artists like young Dylan and Jeff Buckley live is such a thrill. This year’s Twin Solitude augmented Vollebbekk’s authentic, personal songwriting with a more sensual production and many of its songs filled the room on Friday. “Vancouver Time,” “All Night Sedans,” “Elegy,” “Big Sky Country,” “Michigan” and “Telluride” were played with unforced measure, inviting you into his narrative visions, moved along by the slow vibrations of bass guitar and brushed drum strokes behind him. Vollebekk’s 2014 breakout album, North Americana, was visited as well, with “Off the Main Drag” freezing people in their place.

One thing you walked away thinking, back out in the snow, slowly coming to from the trance Leif Vollebekk’s soulful potions had put you in is that he’s a good hang. His music can bring a smile and an upwelling of humanity from the stiffest and most repressed, which is why we need to keep encouraging his likes to play for us, to show us how to take a long look around and take it all in. Performances like his remind you that in the midst of the overload, earnest storytelling through sweet sound is something to slow down and stop for. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Flying Lotus – Brooklyn Steel – November 6, 2017

November 7th, 2017


Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Grizzly Bear Dazzle Hometown Crowd at Brooklyn Steel on Saturday

November 6th, 2017

Grizzly Bear – Brooklyn Steel – November 4, 2017


The draw to go see Grizzly Bear in concert runs parallel to the argument to watch a film by Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino on the big screen. In both cases you’re not only experiencing art in the form that conveys its native impact, but you’re also most fully absorbing the styles, angles and dimensions that gloriously distinguish the artist. Such opportunity was afforded on Saturday at Brooklyn Steel, where Grizzly Bear played the last of three sold-out shows marking their return home to the borough where they were born—and their symbolic return to the contemporary music landscape. While the current tour is no doubt in service of their first new album in five years, Painted Ruins, that focus was discreetly carried home by integrating the long-player’s songs into the rest of Grizzly Bear’s 13-year catalog. Outlined by the magical confines of translucent gauze like fabric that formed a celestial cave dwelling, band members Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen, Chris Tyler and Chris Bear expounded upon a career-spanning set list curated with the narrative and stylistic arc that distilled Grizzly Bear’s significance and contribution to a field of music they were responsible for expanding.

As such, the fantastic show was sort of like a retrospective exhibition. Songs like “Yet Again,” from 2012’s Shields, were played with defiant bluster, as if Grizzly Bear wanted to convince you of the album’s overlooked merit, while “Ready Able” and “While You Wait for the Others,” off their essential 2009 album, Veckatimest, pulsated through the room, heightening and transforming the atmosphere, one of the band’s instinctive abilities. It was clear that any rust that had developed over their individual detachments from playing music in the last five years has already disappeared. Rossen’s guitar strumming still had that irresistible surf-rock dissonance that sucked you into that familiar Grizzly Bear place, and Bear’s drumming still held rhythm and threw fills with jazzy soul. During the levitating rendition of “Fine for Now” the vocal interplay between Rossen and Droste effortlessly combined into two-note harmony. Even something like “Two Weeks,” which we’ve all heard countless times, became irresistible again, revived by a live thrust that had everyone bopping along. When new songs “Mourning Sound,” “Three Rings” and “Four Cypresses” were played, it was only then you realized there were glowing new colors that all blend seamlessly into the Grizzly Bear repertoire.

One thing the performance pushed through in myriad ways and with resonance was how integral this band has been in the past decade of alternative rock. And even though they have become universally respected recording artists, the members still carry themselves like your friends who are thrilled to put on a show at a local bar, which only adds to the warm enchanted feeling you get when seeing Grizzly Bear live. During the set, original founder of the band, Droste, expressed his gratitude for the turnout: “Thank you for welcoming us back to where we started.” Grizzly bear were quite welcome on a night when it became so clear how far they’ve come. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

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Rostam Brings Debut Solo Album to Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 25th, 2017

The story of Rostam Batmanglij is one of continuation and staying on his creative toes. With an open mind and an open heart he’s thrown himself into each expression and partnership without getting bogged down. There was some level of redefinition in order when the instant but unsustainable starburst of his former band, Vampire Weekend, leveled out a bit, at least beyond their base following. But it was inevitable that he’d forge his own path. With inherent musical proclivity, it was just a matter of discovering new outlets. And he’s certainly found them. Along with lending his enlivening sense of melody and world rhythm to the production of acts including Frank Ocean, Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen—and oh, by the way, writing original music for the reprise of Kenneth Lonergan’s classic Broadway play This Is Our Youth—Rostam struck collaborative gold last year when he buddied up with Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser to gift us with the rollicking resplendence of I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (stream it below).

The volume of his work keeping him limber, he was prime to really hit a graceful, ground-covering stride on his first proper solo affair, Half-Light (stream it below). Just released this month, the effort carries that extraspecial glow and pop of every fifth firework. From the moment his Panda Bear–esque vocals sail into the album entrance of “Sumer,” a feeling of bright-eyed anticipation of what follows keeps afloat like an air-blasted ping pong ball. A youthful blend of vulnerability and moxie suspend in a seasoned weave of production that takes cues from all directions. There are even melodic allusions to the coiled-spring bop of Vampire Weekend, yet they’re shrewdly integrated, as in “Wood,” with cleanly bowed strings jumping into the gaps formed from the seductive Eastern percussion. When hearing the melodious, uplifting cheer of what can be construed as Rostam’s prideful retort to the chirping birds comes through his cry of “Please don’t let it get to you/ Even if you don’t realize it/ It’s still all up to you,” you’ll feel like running out buck naked to take on the world. He’s arrived at that point of confident eloquence, tightly embracing what made him and what moves him—and letting the tracks fall where they may.

Rostam once said that he’s interested in inclusion rather than exclusion, that his goal is to make music that can move anybody. His solo album easily surpasses this goal, and when performed live, the vibe pulses through the crowd. There’s that inestimable moment in time when a beloved honorary New Yorker who has contributed richly to this city’s music scene returns to play under a spotlight that is all his. That rare moment comes Wednesday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. You’ll be able to reach up and touch the electricity in the atmosphere on the night. Among the devoted and adoring Vampire Weekenders and newly blossomed fans of his duet album with Hamilton Leithauser, others, picked up along his musical path where the scenery has never been dull, will join in on the anticipation of a prolific artist, who many leap at the chance to work alongside, finally having his own moment in the spotlight. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

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Planetarium’s Wondrous Aural Expansion at Celebrate Brooklyn

July 19th, 2017

Planetarium – Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell – July 18, 2017


Upon reflection, I can’t say that I’ve ever before seen a concert for one album that was recomposed from original concert performances. Planetarium is this year’s grand, ambitious concept album that originated years ago when contemporary classical composer Nico Muhly was commissioned by Dutch concert hall Muziekgebouw Eindhoven to create a performance piece. With the cosmos as his muse, Muhly recruited friends and contemporaries Sufjan Stevens, the National’s Bryce Dessner and the multidimensional James McAlister to bring an ode to the universe to life. Those live performances were unearthed and reconstructed in studio and are now returning to their point of genesis as a monumental set of live renditions played in a small run of special engagements.

Last night, the unexpected quartet, backed by brass and string sections, unleashed Planetarium before an awestruck turnout at Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Special engagements call for special venues and the always enchanting Bandshell’s open natural amphitheater space, nestled among grand old trees, was the obvious home for a performance that needed the freedom to spread into the atmosphere. For this manifestation of universal magnificence here were the fearless voyagers, each a conduit of the sonic forces that merged into a glorious big bang. Their express mission was to widen scope and to inspire earthbound beings to expand perspective at all opportunities.

On this tour through the planets of our solar system, Stevens, doused in glitter to symbolize the infinitum is stars, served as the quintessential vocal guide. After floating in on piano keys from the heavens as an introduction to “Neptune,” he took a moment to welcome everyone with a few words on the significance of their musical observance of the universe. “We must remind ourselves that the universe holds an abundance of truth and purity, dignity and light … let us all remember that.” Joining Stevens, Muhly sat behind his grand piano like the captain at a spaceship’s control deck, his role to lend a limitless depth of field. McAlister, the percussive wizard, sat at his expanded drum set, gracefully keeping time in a timeless medium and adding flourishes of cymbal when needed. All the while, Dessner, armed with his trusted guitar, provided masterful manipulation of guitar strings issuing forth as a million beams of light, adding the particulate matter to the grand tapestry. In the beginning, there was sound, glorious and immeasurable—and artistically reinterpreted by this group of talented musicians, it was a singular and magical thing to behold. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

 

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The Shins – Celebrate Brooklyn – June 15, 2017

June 16th, 2017


Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Big Thief Celebrate New Album’s Release at Rough Trade NYC

June 12th, 2017

Big Thief – Rough Trade NYC – June 9, 2017


Rough Trade NYC filled up quickly on Friday night, and the expectations were high for the headliners, Big Thief, as well as the opening acts, Mega Bog and Really Big Pinecone. The latter—a trio with disarming charm—took the stage first. Their smart lyrics and self-deprecating humor were an intoxicating little combination. The band’s acclaimed sophomore album, What I Said About the Pinecone, came out last fall. Mega Bog, a jaunty rock act fronted by multi-instrumentalist Erin Birgy, followed with signature spacey sounds. Their songs sent an eerie yet cheery chill down my back, her bright voice mingling with the group’s shape-shifting psychedelic guitar riffs and kicky drums from their 2017 album, Happy Together. Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief joined them for a song mid-set to add yet another layer to the band’s freewheeling sound.

Big Thief came onstage to the tune of some particularly uproarious applause, undoubtedly because some of us had already listened to their brand-new second album, Capacity (which had come out earlier that day)—and it’s incredible. The band’s sensitive, poignant sound brings life to stories of love, death and the family history in a devastatingly real way. What’s more, singer-guitarist Lenker, guitarist Buck Meek, drummer James Krivchenia and bassist Max Oleartchik put such care and compassion into being onstage together. It’s heartening to see such a thing these days.

Big Thief played their new album almost all the way through—“Pretty Things,” “Masterpiece” and “Mythological Beauty” rang out, and Lenker paused in the middle, joking, “We’d need this time to flip the record.” Capacity’s intimacy was really magnified live. Its quiet yet ecstatic energy delivered a punch to the stomach that hurt so good. The band is just beginning a summer tour of the world, and future Big Thief concertgoers beware: You’re in for an unbelievably ride that will take you deep into the crevasses of love, pain, light and dark. —Schulyer Rooth | @SchuylerSpeak

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Animal Collective Stretch the Limits at Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday

May 24th, 2017

Animal Collective – Brooklyn Steel – May 23, 2017


We have arrived at the stage where there is absolutely no telling what you’re going to get at an Animal Collective show. Essentially, they are the computer-generation equivalent of the Grateful Dead and Phish when it comes to live-performance unpredictability. Impulse and whim stir together with rote knowledge of every song in their nearly 15 years of recordings that have traveled through woods and rocketed into the space age. Their familiarity with one another’s moves from playing on- and offstage is such that the holy triumvirate of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist can wander off trail to blaze another, then find their way back without a compass. The collective experience akin to being tugged into velvet, open-lake waters, a first time water skier on their rippling currents of electronic sound.

Last night, Animal Collective swam about the confines of Brooklyn Steel like betas in a fish bowl, stretching the limits. Releasing a deluge of strawberry electro jams that oozed outward like they’d been left out in the sun, the band treated the opportunity as kids would a new neighborhood playground, sonically leaping and bounding and beckoning others to join in the frolicking. Over the course of the run of shows since releasing last year’s Painting With, it’s been each member at his control station of sound backed by a drummer. The character of their live performances, without fourth member Deakin, has then taken on the more cubic and elastic tone of Painting With, which didn’t feature Deakin.

From the quicksand of cosmic slop Animal Collective create emerged the type A–personality bounce of “FloriDada” and “Hocus Pocus,” and staying in that key, the wild bunch stretched out their legs on the subsequent The Painters EP by hurling “Peacemaker” into the room to bounce about in a manner resembling Atari’s Breakout. Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s vocal interplay formed a snake dance on “Lying in the Grass” before the gang took us back to older fare like “Summertime Clothes” and “Guys Eyes.” Songs melted into one another as an up-tempo trance-hop version of “Bees” spread over the sizeable room. On some of the set’s jumpier tunes, Tare came forth to dance loosely along with his animalistic vocal calls. When Animal Collective returned for the encore, it was to extend the evening for as long as they could hold their breath under their water world of experiments. Thanking friends and family for coming out to see them at a new playground, the band plunged back in, to the delight of all. On this night, Brooklyn Steel was where the wild things were. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Perfume Genius Goes Bold at Sold-Out Brooklyn Steel

May 17th, 2017

Perfume Genius – Brooklyn Steel – May 16, 2017


There’s a lot to be said for an artist rising to the occasion, for recognizing the swell of critical acclaim for the work one has created and the inescapable buzz of anticipation for performing it while being able to get a handle on all of the nerves and emotions flowing in and around a big moment to deliver with poise and pace, and, ultimately, heart-stopping impact. Perfume Genius’s pop music is so stirring because it strikes a balance between extravagance and intimacy, bombast and fragility, not to mention Mike Hadreas dancing unpredictably within the space of that spectrum. Riding the energy of his just released fourth solo album, No Shape, Hadreas greeted his largest U.S. audience to date last night at the recently unveiled and sold-out room of Brooklyn Steel.

Amidst his backing band keeping a steady pulse of from the shadows, Hadreas floated about a stage transformed into his own lair of sonic fantasy, unleashing a voice of divine range to touch thrilling peaks on seismic pop starbursts like the rousing “Queen” and “Slip Away.” Then, with uncanny sense of timing, ballads including No Shape finale “Alan” and “Too Bright” found him landing softly and sweetly into spot-lit pockets where lyrics of emotion commingled with his virtuosic piano play. With his seductive and disarming presence, Perfume Genius’s music left all in the audience intoxicated and helpless to surrender. It was a performance of bold substance, delivered with flair and elegance by an artist keenly aware that his time has arrived. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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The Radio Dept. Make It Seem Effortless at The Bowery Ballroom

March 9th, 2017

The Radio Dept. – The Bowery Ballroom – March 8, 2017

The Radio Dept. – The Bowery Ballroom – March 8, 2017
The Radio Dept. speak the wispy language of dream pop, straddling the spaces between badass and poignant, in the middle of My Bloody Valentine jacked up on something and Stereolab with highlights of ’80s-synth sentimentality à la Pet Shop Boys. There’s no question the band’s influences are long and distinguished, it’s just that because of the inflection and swerve, you only hear them. Last night the benevolent Swedes graced The Bowery Ballroom with a methodically expert set. Select songs from their catalog of rock electronica dating back to 2001 were played as an almost continuous DJ set come to life. Their return to New York City promised a devoted turnout, and the room was filled with fans spanning from old faithful to newly enchanted.

“Sloboda Narodu,” the glorious tribal synth anthem from last year’s Running out of Love, opened the proceedings, immediately putting the crowd in the palm of the band’s hands, which were steady as a surgeon’s. A self-assuredness propelled the performance, with members handling their contribution to each song like a tactician whose measures are second nature. This amounted to a natural flow, with attendees instinctually following along. More than anything, the Radio Dept. just wanted to jam—that much was evident. They’ve never been afraid to embellish in flowing blankets of up-tempo, electronically contoured instrumentation. This holds true onstage, and as they leaned into every groove, the Radio Dept. made it seem effortless.

Sometimes frontman Johan Duncanson sounded like Euro contemporary Markus Acher of the Notwist. The messages of political awareness were there yet felt like they were absorbed subliminally, in hushed expression that blended into the nebulous formations of sound. You’re reminded of the import of content amidst the spell they cast when Duncanson momentarily mentioned, “This next one is called ‘Death to Fascism.’” The Radio Dept. quite simply have a knack for pushing out immaculate, steady and uninterrupted rhythms whether on record or onstage. And last night’s winding journey through more than 15 years of vibrant, animated music was a gratifying retrospective. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Hamilton Leithauser’s Remarkable Friday Night in Williamsburg

February 27th, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 24, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 24, 2017
Call it New York City’s other sold-out Hamilton show, although this one showcases not a rapping founding father but one of the best voices in rock right now, the strained high range of Hamilton Leithauser’s, which will catch you off guard with its sheer power. “I use the same voice I always had,” he belted out in the closing lines of “Sick as a Dog,” the opener on Friday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It was the first display of his voice in full force, firing off like the starting pistol for a remarkable night of music, the second of three local sold-out shows. Multi-instrumentalist and collaborator Rostam Batmanglij, Eric Harvey of Spoon, Greg Roberts and Stephen Patterson of White Rabbits—whom Leithauser had met touring over the years with his previous band, the Walkmen—joined the frontman.

They sounded like they’ve been playing together forever, a band perfectly suited for Leithauser and Batmanglij’s bluesy rock songs that fit perfectly well within the American songwriting canon. “If the man that you need honestly wasn’t me, tell me honey who could that be?” sang Leithauser in a desperate pleading voice over a wavering organ. With its lush sound, his 12-string took the slow-building “In a Black Out” from simmer to a boil and back to a simmer. He told the audience a story about attending a wedding where the father of the bride made a toast and broke out into “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Apparently an awkward affair for everyone else at the wedding, Leithauser fell for the guy in the moment, writing the tender song “The Bride’s Dad” from the father’s perspective. Knowing the song’s background set an incredibly vivid scene of the affair.

The catchy “1,000 Times” followed with hundreds of voices joining in for the chorus. Free-jazz saxophone and Batmanglij’s piano rambling like a rolling river closed out the set with “Rough Going (I Won’t Let Up).” Leithauser’s wife, Anna Stumpf, and the opener, Lucy Dacus, came out for an encore performance of the dreamy “1959.” If the Walkmen were the first act of Leithauser’s career, this collaboration is a hell of a second act, one that shouldn’t see a curtain call anytime soon. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Mogwai’s Message Is Impossible to Ignore at Town Hall on Sunday

January 30th, 2017

Mogwai – Town Hall – January29, 2017

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I can’t speak for the rest of the audience that packed Town Hall last night to bear witness to Mogwai perform their score for the documentary Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise, but anyone with any amount of identification whatsoever with humanity had to have been leveled. The 2015 documentary directed by Mark Cousins strung together archival footage of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the Three Mile Island accident, also showing the subsequent protests and revelations of the Cold War era. Mogwai performed their score for the film live to close out the Edinburgh International Festival in 2016, and have been touring with it through North America to begin 2017. With an equally impressive magnitude of output and precision of timing, they played in lockstep with the large-screen projection of the film above and behind them last night. Two touring members joined the band’s core, guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, keyboardist Barry Burns and drummer Martin Bulloch.

I think I can unequivocally say, without hyperbole, that I’ve never before been impacted by art’s power to alter consciousness, both in the aspect of being sensationally evocative and also provocative of motivation. It quickly got to a point where my eyes were fixated on the utterly devastating footage of the by-products of the inception of atomic energy. The band appeared to just dissolve into the surrounding darkness. At times during the breaks in the score that made audible the remarks of people who lived during that time and dealt directly with its consequences, all onstage seemed as though they were bowing their heads in memory and silence. The music brought together an ensemble of electric guitar, keyboards and drums in one massive, scorching onslaught, blowing up the normal paradigm of the concert experience. It was no place for children or those faint of tolerance.

In my opinion, Mogwai have now passed into a rarified class of musicians who recognize the influence harnessed in their compositions and find applications to a cause larger than their own. The performance was all the more disquieting now that we are all that much closer to something going disastrously and irreparably wrong. Our newest president and anyone remotely associated with nuclear proliferation should be strapped down and made to see this show. Absolutely, Mogwai’s performance of Atomic is an agent for a message with enormous significance, escorting it to a place where it is impossible to ignore. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

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Plaid – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 27, 2017

January 30th, 2017

Plaid - Music Hall of Williamsburg - January 27, 2017

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com