Tag Archives: Review

cat_reviews

A Willie Watson and Colter Wall Sing-Along at Rough Trade NYC

October 26th, 2017

Willie Watson and Colter Hall – Rough Trade NYC – October 25, 2017


Sometimes at a concert you get a real feel for what things were like back when. Sometimes it’s because of the room: Walk into Carnegie Hall or Village Vanguard and you are transported back through decades of New York City live-music history. Other times it’s the performers themselves who seem to transport you back to a past heyday. Last night at Rough Trade NYC featured two such performers who transported the crowd back in time, evoking a country and folk music of another era as if it were brand-new today.

Colter Wall is a Canadian singer from Saskatchewan who evokes a country music of a time gone by. He began his set solo, with just enough croak in his vintage voice and acoustic guitar, singing, “If I’m being truthful, I only live at night” and covering Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” like he’d written it on his way from Canada. He was joined by a band—mandolin, dobro, bass—and continued to mix old-school covers by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Hank Williams with originals from his self-titled debut that evoked the same spirit with a little updating along the way. A cover of Blaze Foley’s “Oval Room,” perfectly fit into the set and had the crowd whooping and hollering. Audiences will clap or sing along and this one did that aplenty, but the stomp along is a bit rarer and felt natural at several points during Wall’s performance—you could imagine yourself back when in a barn somewhere hearing murder ballads like his “Kate McCannon” and stomping along.

Willie Watson has a voice and a love for folk music and, let’s face it, a name that makes it easy to imagine sitting around a campfire or revival tent hearing gospel numbers and old-timey songs mixed with storytelling and off-center humor. He opened with “Take This Hammer,” his voice infused with a slight warble as he stretched out syllables, letting them fill the room. “If you know this one, sing along” seemed to be implied from the start of his set, and the crowd joined in as he worked his way through a musical time warp. Watson has been playing and touring and recording these old folk songs for years—his new album is simply and aptly titled Folk Singer Vol. 2—and he sings them possessed of their original spirit. Tunes like “Samson and Delilah,” “Gallows Pole” and “Midnight Special” in their original form before they were turned into modern-day rock songs were stripped to their original bare essence in Watson’s hands. Switching between guitar and banjo (giving the audience what he referred to as a proper dose of “vitamin B”), the set was both raucous and poignant. Like any good folk show, there were sing-alongs, like “Stewball,” and murder ballads, like “Frankie and Johnny,” and, of course, songs about the feats of John Henry. Through them all, Watson’s love for the music and performing it shined through, taking the audience to way back when for just one night. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(Tonight’s Willie Watson and Colter Hall show at Mercury Lounge is sold out.)       

cat_reviews

Elvis Perkins Celebrates an Album Milestone at Rough Trade NYC

October 23rd, 2017

Elvis Perkins – Rough Trade NYC – October 20, 2017


Family reunions can be planned or impromptu, times of joy and nostalgia or pain and remembrance, barbecues or funerals. Elvis Perkins’ music has always been a mix of melancholy and jubilance, and so it was perfect for a “reunion” on Friday night in Brooklyn at Rough Trade NYC. The appearance was one of two anniversary shows (the other in L.A.) celebrating the 10th anniversary of Perkins’ breakout album, Ash Wednesday. For the show he assembled most of the original musicians and more, musical cousins and brothers and sisters joining together once again to make music and share memories and maybe make some new ones as well.

Like the album—and, really, like most gatherings of old friends—the show began with its most powerful, emotional moment. “While You Were Sleeping” started, as it always has, with Perkins solo, singing, “Time flew, the phone rang/ There was a silence when the kitchen sang/ Its songs competed like kids for space/ We stared for hours in our maker’s face.” One by one the musicians came onstage and began playing, bass and drums and backup singers and then horns and a four-piece strings section, the family together again and a wave of emotion swelling inside the room. To me, the album was always one of the more poignant responses to 9/11, but its happiness-from-sadness energy resonated just as strongly on Friday. The full complement of strings seemed to generate much of the emotion, at times eerie or chilling or sobbing.

With the massive band and the range of feelings coming from the stage, the centerpiece was still Perkins’ songs—lyrics as poetic and meaningful as ever—like “It’s Only Me”: “The white noise falls away to reveal the perfect day/ Where roses bloomed out of thin air and music rose from down the buried stairs.” After closing with a penetrating version of “Good Friday,” Perkins introducing the full band, goodbyes imminent, they added an encore of “Doomsday” from the Elvis Perkins in Dearland album, an unplanned moment, perhaps not everyone knowing the song but happy to linger and enjoy one another’s company for just a bit longer. Like most reunions, the event felt all the more significant by the uncertainty of when we all might meet again. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

 

cat_reviews

Anders Osborne and Jackie Greene in Perfect Balance at the Space

October 23rd, 2017

Anders Osborne and Jackie Greene – the Space at Westbury – October 20, 2017


Jackie Greene and Anders Osborne met through Phil Lesh, of whose Phil Lesh & Friends lineups they’re both alumni. They’ve since each gone on record to say they were simpatico from the beginning, and that isn’t surprising: Both musicians write Americana-driven rock and pop songs with healthy undercurrents of blues and psychedelia. Greene, in recent years, has gone in more of a blues-rock direction from his original folk-pop beginnings. Osborne, still best known for the roiling guitars and ragingly cathartic jams of his electric band, has gone quieter and more introspective with his last few albums. Both artists are as different as they are similar, but you can easily understand the admiration for each other’s material and the kinship they found.

In this setup—which Greene and Osborne have tested and now fashioned into an actual tour—the two are a mostly acoustic duo. Sing some songs, pluck some strings, tell some stories, bathe it all in a winning mojo. At the Space at Westbury on Friday night, they alternated lead vocals, more or less, for a 90-minute set that drew heavily on their respective catalogs and included not only guitars but keyboards, harmonica and touches of banjo. The concert had a relaxed, hootenanny feel: Listen to songs of uplift, some tales of woe, reflections from a learned place. Laugh a little, or laugh a lot, and pass round that whiskey. That it was a folksy gathering—not a smoothly packaged concert presentation—was precisely the point. The deeper appeal of this format is that both musicians agree to play with and play off each other, but take it a level beyond that, investing in the other’s music beyond just accompanying and waiting for the next lead vocal.

Greene added just-right keys to tender Osborne tunes like “Burning Up Slowly,” and with crackling guitar, Osborne scuffed up “Gone Wanderin’,” “Modern Lives,” “Tupelo” and other strong examples of Greene’s pensive/cynical narratives. Their give-and-take worked, again and again. Greene’s “I Don’t Live in a Dream,” in this format, sounded like Bill Withers on the back porch, while Osborne’s “It Can’t Hurt You Anymore” went deep for pathos and Greene’s accompaniment went right along with it. Osborne’s rollicking “Lafayette” was the best of a lot of things, with Osborne, Greene and guest Cris Jacobs having a three-way acoustic-slide summit. The three also picked through the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” at a boozy, laid-back tempo—yet one more simpatico moment. “Fuckin’ Deadheads everywhere!” exclaimed Greene to crowd roars. Yes, including on the stage, but everyone sure felt welcome. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

cat_reviews

A Margo Price Storm Blows Through Rough Trade NYC on Thursday

October 20th, 2017

Margo Price – Rough Trade NYC – October 19, 2017


Predicting the next big music star is just about as easy as predicting the weather. Even with a lifetime of knowledge and the best instruments, you still get it wrong just as often as you get it right. But sometimes the barometer, thermometer, hygrometer and the Doppler radar all point to one obvious conclusion: It’s gonna rain. And for the crowd lucky enough to make it in for her All American Made album-release show at Rough Trade NYC last night, there was no doubt about the forecast, that’s Margo Price coming over the plain, a drought-killing downpour of talent and charm. Opening with “Nowhere Fast,” she perhaps subtly, perhaps subconsciously, was dressed as the Woman in Black, a modern-day outlaw country, with a more-than-meets-the-eye mix of soul, gospel, blues and funk to go along with the band’s considerable honky-tonk roots.

Price led her secret-weapons-grade band through the new album, the track order shuffled expertly to maximize the live-show experience. Pedal-steel-infused boot stompers like “Weakness” mixed in with gorgeous ballads. “Learning to Lose” hushed the hepped up crowd to near silence with Price’s voice filling the room, complemented by pretty guitar and pedal steel solos. She sneaked in the caveat that it was the first time playing a lot of the material live, but there was little sign of tentativeness or rust, quite the contrary. The songs showed off a bit of depth, both in sound—“Cocaine Cowboys” was as much Little Feat as Willie Nelson and “All American Made” was as much in the tradition of Neil Young as Loretta Lynn—and subject matter, songs about love lost and found replaced by deep storytelling with some social commentary proudly thrown in.

The band picked up steam and Price’s voice gained some extra torrential-rain power as they built the set to a head, finishing the album material with strong versions of “Loner” and the title track and then offering some crowd-pleasers to the already-quite-pleased sold-out crowd in “Tennessee Song” and “Paper Cowboy.” Here the band really flexed their muscles, drums and bass providing the thunder and lightning in a set-closing maelstrom, Price leaving the stage to applause while they rocked out for several minutes, just in case you hadn’t already appreciated their effort throughout the performance. That storm had passed as quickly as it had come, but for Margo Price, it’s easy to predict that it’s still just getting going. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

cat_reviews

Against Me! Thrill Packed Brooklyn Steel Crowd on Saturday Night

October 16th, 2017

Against Me! – Brooklyn Steel – October 14, 2017


For some, Against Me! are the only band that matters, while in other circles the group hasn’t mattered in more than a decade. In their early days, the Florida four-piece fused folk and punk in a way that put their sound somewhere in between Billy Bragg and Crass. Their 2002 debut, Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose, was filled with scrappy sing-along tunes that promoted far-left politics and an infectious DIY charm that quickly won over the punk scene and influenced countless other acts. Then things began to change: Their 2007 album, New Wave, was a divisive sea change for the band as they jumped from indie label Fat Wreck Chords to the major label Sire Records. The LP paired them with famous producer Butch Vig, who helped them expand upon their sound and buff out the amateurish edge that seemed exciting and dangerous to many of their longtime loyal followers. But for those fans who turned their backs around that period, they have really missed out as Against Me! have come into their own in so many ways.

During that period, singer Laura Jane Grace (previously known as Tom Gabel) had begin to subtly hint in her lyrics that she was suffering from gender dysmorphia—and in the following years, she began to fully transition. This process fueled Grace to write the band’s masterpiece, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, so nakedly honest about her experiences while still rocking with more fury and passion than the band had displayed since their early days. During this time, the original rhythm section left and after some temporary substitutions, drummer Atom Willard and bassist Inge Johansson became permanent members. With these additions, Against Me! have become one the best live bands going. And after touring behind their newest album, Shape Shift with Me, for seven weeks, they brought their well-oiled machine to Brooklyn Steel on Saturday for a life-affirming night of rock and roll.

The room boiled over with a collective joy impossible not to notice as Against Me! blasted into Blues“True Trans Soul Rebel.” The mania in the crowd barely let up as the sea of fans bounced along in unison with crowd-surfers perpetually rolling overhead throughout the set. The band treated fans to a well-balanced mix of material from throughout their career, even busting out some deep cuts from the early days, like an especially heavy rendition of Axl Rose’s “Jordan’s First Choice.” One of the most surprising moments of the main set came as the quartet played a faithful rendition of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” that did the fallen Florida icon proud. Their encore also started with a cover as Grace played a solo rendition of the Mountain Goats classic “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” The song’s lines “When you punish a person for living his dream/ Don’t expect him to thank or forgive you” could act as a rallying cry for the resistance and Grace sang it with an intense purpose that sent chills down the spine. As the show came to an end, the band went out with a one-two punch of “Sink, Florida, Sink” and “We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules” that had fans singing the words long after the house lights had come on. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

cat_reviews

Benjamin Clementine Proves How He Got to Carnegie Hall on Thursday

October 6th, 2017

Benjamin Clementine – Carnegie Hall – October 6, 2017


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice—but for Benjamin Clementine it was more than just that. The British singer, poet and artist grew up in London before moving to Paris as a homeless teenager. While spending a considerable amount of time there busking on streets, he immersed himself in the French music and art scenes. His talents did not go unnoticed, eventually garnering a joint license contract with Virgin EMI, Capitol and Barclay. On the heels of the release of his sophomore album, I Tell a Fly, Clementine graced the hallowed stage of Carnegie Hall on Thursday, donning a fitted metallic suit. He and his accompanying band dressed in blue jumpsuits, ambling barefoot in circuitous routes around the sparse stage.

Clementine’s guttural opening of “God Save the Jungle” had the audience cheering from the start, and he followed that with the theatrically orchestrated “Phantom of Aleppoville.” Between songs, the meditative walking continued as the statuesque singer roamed between the guitarist and drummer platforms. Cellist Barbara le Liepvre was draped in an American flag during “Jupiter,” as Clementine sang, “Wishing Americana happy/ Wishing Americana free/ Ben’s an alien passing by/ Wishing everyone be.” The piece felt more like an art performance, and the band’s participation did not end there. The group linked hands on “Quintessence” as they rounded the stage.

There was no piano when the set began, but that was remedied during the encore as one was wheeled out. The best was truly saved for last, in fan favorites “Cornerstone” and “Adios,” but it was the Clementine-commanded sing-along on “Condolence” that unified the evening. Granting his request for the stage lights to go dim, Clementine led the room in a collective chorus of “I’m sending my condolence/ I’m sending my condolence to fear.” On an eve of a full moon, the night concluded with “I Won’t Complain,” which was the perfect review. —Sharlene Chiu

cat_preview

Broken Social Scene to the Rescue at Brooklyn Steel on Wednesday

October 5th, 2017

Broken Social Scene – Brooklyn Steel – October 4, 2017

In “getting the band back together,” the siblings in The Blues Brothers are compelled to get all of the original members, no less will do, in order to rekindle the old magic. I imagine Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning going through similar adventures every few years as they search Toronto to round up Andrew Whiteman, Charles Spearin, Justin Peroff and the rest of Broken Social Scene. In the movie, the reunion is to save an orphanage, and while now there’s no orphanage to save, per se, it does lately feel like our collective national psyche has been orphaned—and who better to save it than these guys? Or, as Drew put it midway through their sold-out show at Brooklyn Steel last night: “When your country gets fucked up, Broken Social Scene shows up … that’s what we do.” And show up they did, delivering a powerful, jubilant, cathartic set, the band, indeed back together.

The healing vibes were flowing from the beginning with a punchy opening one-two of “KC Accidental” and “7/4 Shoreline,” guitars layered upon guitars and then, at just the right moment, a blast of horns materializing to provide the exclamatory oomph. “We’re not a rock band, we’re a family!” proclaimed Drew later in the night, putting to words the unique, sibling-love energy coming from the stage. Even when squeezing two, three and sometimes four guitar parts into their songs, the sound was big and loving without getting too messy. A mid-set pairing of “Stars and Sons” and “World Sick” showed off the ensemble’s range: joyous, raucous bounce followed by more subtle, heartfelt rocking, the latter lingering with beautiful cascades of guitar in both the intro and outro.

While it’s been a few years since Broken Social Scene’s last proper tour—and the band and crowd were both filled with nostalgia last night—plenty of new material still seamlessly fit into the set. “Skyline,” dedicated to Tom Petty, felt especially purposeful and charged, quietly building to another horn-led climax. The new record is titled Hug of Thunder, and that’s exactly what the show felt like, an emotional release in voluminous guitars, bass, drums and more. During the encore, the hugs became literal, Drew dropping down into the crowd to sing “Lover’s Spit” and giving a genuine embrace to as many people as he could along the way as he sang, sincerely, if not reassuringly, “Making it work takes a little time.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

cat_reviews

Thundercat Proves He’s One of the Best Live Acts in Music Today

September 25th, 2017

Thundercat – Union Transfer – September 24, 2017

(Photo: Eddie Alcazar)

As Thundercat, Stephen Bruner is an extraordinary (and endearing) weirdo. His bass-playing ability rivals that of anyone playing the instrument. And if that’s not true on a technical level, his sense of melody and unique approach to making music put him in a rarefied space. On a six-string bass, which he often strums like a guitar, Thundercat alternates between inventive chords and rapid successions of notes. It’s a dizzying and inventive combination. On his latest album, Drunk, out earlier this year, he extends on his particular aesthetic blend of funk and jazz while singing oddball lyrics in a falsetto. Some of his pet obsessions are video games, psychedelia and his pet cat, Tron, who gets multiple name-checks throughout songs. This combination of serious musicianship and delightful goofing earns Thundercat more and more fans as he mines deeper into his sound.

On Sunday, the second of back-to-back shows at Union Transfer, Thundercat continued to delight with the breadth of his catalog and the joy of his personality. For the performance, he came out in Muay Thai boxing shorts that matched his dyed-red braids. The latter were put to good use as Bruner swung his head around with eyes closed and lips pursed while playing quick riffs. Those moments when he and the band played the musical equivalent of a high-speed chase were the most thrilling. It’s a high-wire act where each musician is forced to find the center within the musical digressions. But there was also pleasure in more straight-up renditions of some of his standout tracks, like the show-closing “Them Changes,” which Thundercat played while gesturing to the audience like Dave Chappelle in his famous Rick James sketch. That sense of humor, paired with his awesome abilities, makes him one of the best acts in live music. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic

cat_reviews

Alt-Rock Icons Pixies Fill Space at Westbury with Dark, Jarring Rock

September 25th, 2017

Pixies – the Space at Westbury – September 22, 2017


Pixies don’t banter. They don’t do it slick. They don’t waste time. You wouldn’t call them nihilist, but their music usually paints in life’s darker corners, and they don’t mind some mess and abrasion in it. Sure, there’s nostalgia in the inevitable airings of big Pixies songs—“Wave of Mutilation,” “Debaser,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Where Is My Mind?”— but the band doesn’t serve them nostalgically: They mix with newer-era Pixies songs in a forceful, workmanlike way that can leave you brooding, rocking out or losing your balance. It may be 1989 or 2017, but your mind is in the moment.

That Pixies can still do this despite a major transition in their lineup—the departure of Kim Deal and arrival of bassist and multi-instrumentalist Paz Lenchantin over the last few years—suggests their service is to the music, which, save for backlight drama or a fog-machine blast or two, doesn’t rely on (or need) much spectacle to feel huge. Pixies strain everything from psychedelia and noise pop to country and blues through what might be called a classic “alternative rock” sound, and then scuff it up good. This isn’t and never has been comfortable, slip-on rock and roll. And that’s true even with the sunnier, more upbeat tone of their post-reunion records, Indie Cindy (2014) and Head Carrier (2016), whose songs are of a piece with the band’s off-kilter legacy material and slot in appropriately throughout a 90-minute-that-only-feels-like-20-minute show, the cultured Pixies weirdness still apparent even when dressed up in happy melodies.

At the Space on Friday, they launched into “Wave of Mutilation” and from there didn’t take much in the way of pauses, peeling off songs one after another: rockers, stomps, chugging metallic boogies. All in all, they got through about 30 of them, with standouts like “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Head Carrier,” “Crackity Jones” and “Um Chagga Lagga” mixing as ingredients in a spiked cocktail with the likes of “Velouria,” “Cactus,” “Snakes” and their gnarly version of Neil Young’s “Winterlong.” In some cases, the songs blurred together, around different sounds, around Frank Black’s piercing screams or Joey Santiago’s mighty smashing guitar, and that seemed to be the intended effect—a Pixies set is ultimately a panorama. Kind of a fucked up–looking panorama, maybe, but that’s life, as Lenchantin, Black, Santiago and drummer David Lovering would probably remind you. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

cat_reviews

Joseph Entertain Music Hall of Williamsburg with New Music

September 18th, 2017

Joseph – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 15, 2017


Sisterly vocals aren’t exactly a new thing. In fact, there’s already the Andrew Sisters, the Secret Sisters, First Aid Kit, the Staves, Haim and plenty more. So what’s another band of sisters to add to the ever-growing group? The sisters Closner—Natalie, Allison and Meegan—formed a trio when then solo Natalie (now Schepman) recruited her twin sisters to join her on the new project that birthed Joseph. Hailing from Portland, Ore., their namesake also comes from the band’s home state and the town where their grandfather lived. The sisters swung into Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night after a recent release of their Stay Awake EP earlier this month.

Against a backdrop featuring the band’s name, the siblings charged the stage with “All,” off the latest release, followed by the soaring harmonies of “Lifted Away.” The EP was played in its entirety, as well as several tracks from their sophomore full-length album, last year’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not. Whether intentional or not, the sisters dressed differently, perhaps to reveal their unique personalities: Allison in an oversized white button down and lined pants; Meegan in all black cropped top and high-waisted pants; and Natalie in a flowing blouse and ripped jeans. This mesh of fashion could be translated in their music from the dance-pop “SOS (Overboard)” to the bittersweet ballad “I Don’t Mind,” sung to aching perfection by Meegan. Natalie shined on protest-worthy “White Flag,” emphatically stamping her feet to the chanting chorus.

Newer material like “50, 60, 80” was welcomed, while two covers especially enraptured the crowd. A rendition of Tears for Fears“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was in response to our current state of affairs. Natalie explained in an interview to NPR: “In all honesty, it feels like the house is falling down around us, but the lyric ‘holding hands while the walls come tumbling down’ resounds in our minds. We hope that our music can be a force of togetherness when it seems like everything’s trying to divide us.” The sisters added their own lyrics to the ’80s hit to bring positivity to our embattled nation: “Make the most of freedom and pleasure/ All I know is take care of each other/ An open door, a seat at the table, there’s enough to go around.” After opening the show, Bailen returned to the stage for a closing cover of the Rolling Stones“Moonlight Mile,” and the sisters put the night to bed with an encore of “Sweet Dreams.” —Sharlene Chiu

cat_preview

Patti Smith Celebrates and Pays Tribute at SummerStage on Thursday

September 15th, 2017

Patti Smith and Her Band – SummerStage – September 14, 2017

“Most of these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred,” said Patti Smith last night on Central Park’s SummerStage. It would have been the 69th birthday of Fred “Sonic” Smith, Patti’s late husband and the father of her two children, Jackson Smith and Jesse Paris Smith. Patti Smith has been part of New York City royalty for decades now, her role in the art world, contributions to music and writing, her ability to find herself by chance in the midst of history’s cool and famous since she first stepped foot here in the late ’60s. But the intimate knowledge of her personal life is relatively recent news for her fans. Smith’s memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, share stories about the love and loss of her best friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, and her husband. They also let in the world on the person behind the art, her uncanny ability to find the sacred in everything and even just a good cup of coffee in a local diner. Knowing this is how she experiences the world made a noteworthy performance to honor and remember her late husband all the more special and intimate.

With her son on guitar and daughter on keyboards, Smith played through a catalog inspired by or written with her husband, gone since 1994 but an inspiration ever since. “Fred, this is the product of many day dreams,” she said as an introduction to “Because the Night” (written with Bruce Springsteen). Smith shared how “Looking For You (I Was)” was penned for their anniversary, a love song written for the city of Detroit, her home in the early years of her married life, written while she was in NYC. The show was full of memorials for others, too. Smith dedicated “Ghost Dance” to the activists who took a stand at Standing Rock; “Dancing Barefoot” to Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 34 on Thursday; “Peaceable Kingdom,” to Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart, who passed away earlier in the day; “Pissing in a River” dedicated to legendary writer Sam Shepard, a close friend who passed away earlier this year. Despite all of these memorials, the performance never stopped feeling like a celebration. Messages sprinkled throughout were delivered with a sense of urgency: “We are free!” and “The people have the power!” Later, triumphantly holding aloft her guitar, Smith yelled, “This is the only fucking weapon we need!”

These are the messages Patti Smith was born to spread. Joined by her now adult children, she  took some moments to try to embarrass them a little, noting her daughter’s willingness to always give her mom her bobby pins. She’s also still wickedly funny, ending some stage banter with: “What am I talking about? I just turned 70. You know when you turn 70 your mind works … in mysterious ways.” But she remains the no-bullshit punk rocker she always was, bringing out the rock and roll animal inside her to dominate the stage for the set-closing “Land.” Even when performing other people’s songs, like Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” the message felt as much hers as theirs. R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, a longtime fan and friend, joined Smith to sing happy birthday to Fred and also to close the show with “People Have the Power.” It was a perfect way to end a night that remembered a powerful artist and reminded everyone there of the most powerful message of all—delivered by the woman he loved. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks


Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com

cat_reviews

Big Thief Close Out Two-Night Run Back at Home in Brooklyn

September 13th, 2017

Big Thief – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 12, 2017

Big Thief, a local Brooklyn band, have done a lot in two years, from releasing a debut album, Masterpiece, in spring 2016 to dropping their follow-up LP, Capacity, just this past June. Lead vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s song delivery anchors the band, while guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivchenia provide the exclamation marks. They’ve been touring nonstop this summer in support of the latest release, including their recent debut at the Newport Folk Festival and a swing through Europe.

Last night, Big Thief played the second of two shows this week at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Lenker wore denim overalls, while Meek favored a more traditional tweed vest and pants combo. The band had the crowd rapt early as they offered up two favorites, the slow-burning “Masterpiece” and the longingly aching “Shoulders.” There was little banter from the soft-spoken lead singer, but her musical voice said enough.

Lenker’s attempts to fill the space between numbers became odd ruminations on dinner, so instead she stuck to her plaintive songs to charge the room. A preemptive surge of applause greeted the first chords of “Mythological Beauty,” and the second album’s title song earned an equally fine reception. The set concluded with the delicate lullaby “Orange,” which was followed by an encore with a guitar-less Lenker crooning “Mary.” —Sharlene Chiu

cat_preview

The Brian Jonestown Massacre Deliver What They Do Best in Brooklyn

September 6th, 2017

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Brooklyn Steel – September 5, 2017


Anton Newcombe will go down fighting the good fight. Since 1991 he has maintained a laughably prolific pace of releasing music with his band, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, that’s mined the depths of early-’60s British rock and Haight Ashbury psychedelia. A true believer and uncompromising musical mastermind, Newcombe has remained one of underground music’s biggest cult artists. But all of his acclaim and adoration from fans has been hard won over years of touring the globe and tinkering in the lab. Along the way, he’s built up the reputation of being one of rock’s most eccentric yet volatile personalities. Ondi Timoner’s classic documentary Dig! shows Newcombe both at his most erratic and brilliant. With the release of this year’s Don’t Get Lost, the Brian Jonestown Massacre brought their tour to Brooklyn Steel last night and were welcomed by a packed house of eager fans waiting to see which side of Newcombe they would get. And for those who were lucky enough to purchase tickets, he did not disappoint.

The experimental group Chui Wan, from Beijing, opened the show, easing the crowd into the night with a loose yet moving set of mind-bending textures and cascading melodies. Once they had finished, the stage was quickly turned around for the headliners. Dressed in matching white linen with a long flowing scarf draped around his neck, Newcombe stepped onstage backed by the six-piece band that makes up the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Including Newcombe, there were three guitarists, a bassist, keyboardist, drummer and longtime tambourine player and mascot Joel Gion, whose lackadaisical presence at the center of the stage drew impassioned “Joel, Joel, Joel” chants from the crowd.

For more than two hours, the Brian Jonestown Massacre delivered what they do best. Each song blasted out of the gate with the force of a desert hallucination as the band treated fans to selections from across their massive 17-album catalog. Newcombe was in great spirits throughout, and he took to the microphone for multiple hilarious tangents. “Do you think that Korean guy Lil’ Kim liked the Beatles?” he asked at one point. And then: “Do you think he watched Yellow Submarine as a kid? How could he and the act like this? I don’t get it.” The group mixed in some newer material from over the past decade alongside such fan favorites as “Anemone” and “Servo,” from their classic run in the ’90s. And by the time the Brian Jonestown Massacre put down their vintage teardrop guitars and that last rattle of the tambourine was heard, everyone who had packed into Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday night knew that they had been treated to one of rock and roll’s last great torchbearers. —Pat King |@MrPatKing

Photos courtesy of Adela Loconte | adelaloconte.com

cat_reviews

Courtesy Tier Put On a Commanding Show at Rough Trade NYC

August 17th, 2017

Courtesy Tier – Rough Trade NYC – August 16, 2017

(Photo: Daniel Cavazos)

How best to describe Brooklyn trio Courtesy Tier? Blues-adelic is probably a good place to start: These guys work up a woozy, potent racket that can veer Hendrix-ian or Zeppelin-esque and get plenty gnarly—but always in service of sturdy melodies. That they’ve been compared to bands like Meat Puppets, Morphine and Chris Whitley in his Rocket House era isn’t so much that they resemble any of them as much as they similarly put a bit of mess into familiar sounds, making them an acquired taste that, once acquired, feels eminently immediate, alive and embraceable.

Courtesy Tier have been kind of a shape-shifter, growing into what they’re supposed to be. Guitarist-ead vocalist Omer Leibovitz and drummer Layton Weedeman have been the guts of the band for about eight years, and in that time they’ve expanded to as many as six players and collapsed back down to a duo on more than one occasion. The lineup’s seemed to be fluid, but last year, Courtesy Tier settled into their current identity as a three-piece, with bassist Alex Picca aboard as a permanent third member. Out of that chrysalis came their first full-length album, the superb Everyone’s OK, much of which was the focus of their headlining spot last night at Rough Trade NYC.

Courtesy Tier played a commanding show, this night deftly organized around standouts like “Childish Blues,” with its slovenly, ’70s-blues-rock-meets-Nirvana vibe, “Cold,” more of a roiling rock and roller that builds to a shattering metallic guitar climax, and “When You Were Young,” an eased-into but still spiky groove more reminiscent of the pre-pop Black Keys. Courtesy Tier had new songs too, including a cover of Can’s “Vitamin C,” which wrapped a stabbing refrain of “You’re losing/ You’re losing/ You’re losing/ You’re losing/ Your vitamin C” in scuffed pop. It was another reminder that, at the intersection of guitar-heavy power-trio blues and a number of other potential jumping off points, they’re really on to something, without being too fussy about what to call it. It’s Brooklyn-y, in a good way, and perfect for these jittery times. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

 

 

cat_reviews

El Ten Eleven and Emile Mosseri Move Rough Trade NYC Audience

August 16th, 2017

El Ten Eleven Featuring Emile Mosseri – Rough Trade NYC – August 15, 2017


El Ten Eleven are an instrumental band in the truest sense of the word. The two—Kristian Dunn on basses and guitar, Tim Fogarty on drums—bend their instruments to their will, pushing them to their limits with electronics and other implements. That’s what they did for the first half of their show at Rough Trade NYC lst night. Playing a range of fan favorites from across their 10-plus years of releases as well as some too-new-to-have-names songs, the duo was in fine form. Gone were the elaborate lights and spectacle from their last area performance. This was just Dunn and Fogarty creating emotional soundscapes in their complicated calculus of compositions. Dunn seemed to play both coming and going, using his double-neck bass-guitar to fill the room with an array of sound before moving to a fretless bass for a section of what he referred to as “dance party” selections. The set list and the grooves kept the audience happy and moving, none more so than “My Only Swerving.”

If you had been at that last show, you might also remember when Emile Mosseri came out to sing a song with the pair. That was a small preview for the second part of Tuesday’s set, which featured Mosseri prominently, Dunn and Fogarty moving to backing-band status as the now-trio played songs from a forthcoming album. Behind Mosseri’s falsetto, the group became a different thing, creating a subtler, textured soundscape. After one or two songs, Mosseri grabbed an acoustic guitar and three members of the opening electro-rock band Pete International Airport joined on backup vocals on songs like “I’m Right Here.” What had once been a larger-than-life duo was now a large-ish band, but the sound actually became lighter. For their final song, Dunn moved back to the double-neck and introduced some unobtrusive loops again, Fogarty slightly bringing back the tempo to a typical El Ten Eleven speed, the music meeting midway between the first and second halves of the show and perhaps hinting at the potential of things to come. —A. Stein | @Neddyo