I Saw Some Shows in 2007
So. Two-Thousand-Seven, a year now rapidly drawing to a close; a 52-week ball of confusion now running toward the door like a panicky theater-goer in the midst of a fire alarm; twelve months now streaming into the drain like ice after a mid-summer blackout. And so on.
It's been a good year. I learned alot, made a ton of music, read a pile of books, listened to gobs of new records, traveled a bit, learned to work the hoop, met some extremely cool people and hopefully will now pass over the threshold into 2008 somehow better equipped for the inevitable assault of the next 365 days.
In 2007 I haven't written in this blog too much, or in any blog, or in notebooks, or letters or even in emails, for that matter. Shit, I can't even remember the last time I scrawled a dirty message on a bathroom wall. For that I apologize, although I don't know that you necessarily mind. In fact, maybe you like it better this way! And who reads this thing, anyhow??
The deal is, I've just been too busy making music, and it's really better that I'm burning calories on that than pouring rants into an obscure piece of internet real estate, right? Right.
But now I've got some downtime, am a long way from my recording gear, and have access to some good alcohol (well, some alcohol), so I thought I'd talk about some of the concerts I saw in 2007. There were great ones, there were awful ones, and of course, more than anything, there were forgettable ones...
I saw Ladytron twice, and that makes three times I've seen the Liverpool quartet on their latest Witching Hour tour. I don't know that one needs to see Ladytron that many times in a 15-month period. They make gorgeous records and I love everything they've put on tape (or hard disc) but in concert they are a little...wooden. There's nothing particularly revelatory, or expressive, or cathartic about a Ladytron show. They've got atmosphere, good sound, nice visuals. It's cool to hear those songs performed live -- but the icy stoicism probably won't start any riots, revolutions or raucous revelry.
Saw LCD Soundsystem twice this year (once at Webster Hall, once at Randall's Island with Blonde Redhead and Arcade Fire.....more on them later). I enjoy playing James Murphy's songs in the comfort of my home, but live, they are exhausting. Not in a satisfying way. Not in an Iggy Pop way, not in a Motorhead way. LCD are just boring live -- and all the "jammy band," everybody-get-a-drum-stick-and-bang-on-something antics in the world won't alleviate the tedium. Their performances are a numbing barrage of flat-line grooves that go on forever, with absolutely no modulation. I mean, "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" has cute lyrics and all, but try hearing that dumb-as-mud riff for ten minutes straight and get back to me....
Which brings me to Daft Punk, who are GENIUSES at whipping a crowd into a frenzy. Their performance at Keyspan Park in Coney Island last August was delirious. Those two Frenchmen in robot drag sure know how to sequence a set, how to build dynamics and, most importantly, how to never underestimate the short attention span of the average audience member. During the entire gig, there was never a good reason to stop dancing.
I didn't dance at country/honky-tonk journeyman Dale Watson's mid-May set at Rodeo Bar, but I marveled at the man's chops, control, and ability to stay on top of his game despite too many whiskey shots floated onstage from the audience...
Adam Franklin didn't make my feet move either, but then I was too busy straining to watch the former (and now, as it happens, current) Swervedriver leader squeeze stomp-box-damaged magic out of his beat up Fender. Franklin played alot of stuff from his newest solo album, the dreamy Bolts of Melody, at Mercury Lounge last summer and it was cool to see the man do his thing up close.
Definitely NOT up close were the re-formed Black Sabbath at the PNC Bank Arts Center. No, I couldn't count the wrinkles on Ronnie James Dio's sexagenarian visage from where I stood, but I could hear the mighty crushing power of Ronnie and his Mob Rules-era mates loud and clear. It was like dermabrasion, or that old Maxell commercial. LOUD. Fucking killer. Massive and timeless, they were like Mount Rushmore up there. The very architects of heavy metal.
Just a coupla weeks ago I caught Kiki and Herb's second ever performance at Carnegie Hall. It was a "Christmas Show," which of course means plenty of blasphemous references to Jesus's afterbirth. I've seen K&H many times and I find them exhausting as well, but they always create some truly magical, spontaneous moments, just as you think they're about to go screaming off the rails...
Saw Juliette and the Licks a coupla months ago at Luna Lounge, but didn't stay for their whole set. I liked the trashy, sweaty, shallow disposability of it all, but I'd mainly gone to the gig to catch the openers, my friends Suffrajett, who stole the show, in my opinion. They play pure no-frills rock and roll with economic skill but their primary asset is a crazy-azz-bitch named Simi, their lead singer, who is outrageously talented, HOT, and positively vibrating with energy. As a frontperson, she has got it all. That band should be huge.
So should Nellie McKay, but then she's bat-shit-crazy, too. I caught her solo set at the Williamsburg Music Hall (if you haven't been there, imagine an exact duplicate of Bowery Ballroom, only on a slightly smaller scale). Nutty Nellie came out onstage with her arms full of sheet music, which she dumped on the floor next to the piano before settling down to play. Before each song she had to rummage through the mess to find the music for it. She was great. I'm afraid McKay's too eccentric to become a big star, but she's got a ton of amazing stuff in her pretty little head and I hope she continues to find outlets for it.
At the same venue I also unfortunately wasted $15 on IAMX a few weeks later. IAMX is this guy who used to sing for Sneaker Pimps and now has a solo career peddling lite-darkwave pop. The music sounds fine (if not memorable) but the "live" show is pure fakery; 75% of the performance is canned, including vocals. Give me my money back, you bitch.
My favorite new French dance pop duo, Justice, were kind enough to drag their enormous, illuminated cross -- along with their laptops -- into the newish Terminal 5 for a loud and hard set in October. Their album is dizzyingly good but their live show is near-bludgeoning in its heavy-handedness. Maybe they need to see Daft Punk a few more times....and take copious notes. Still, the gig was toe-tappin' good fun and I'm sure their tours will only get better.
KUDU. I do love this band. Saw them twice this year, once at a PS1 party (they were mesmerizing) and once at a Halloween gig with Chromeo at Judson Church (not-great sound, not much energy from the crowd). Sylvia's surly and sultry and D'Antony is one MONSTER of a drummer. No wonder he plays for MeShell Indegiocello. May just catch them again on New Year's Eve...
I alluded to a big rock show at Randall's Island earlier. It featured a buncha bands but I only arrived in time to see Blonde Redhead, who shimmered through tracks from their dreampoppy latest album, 23, with controlled beauty. They sounded fantastic. After their set, LCD SS wore me down for about an hour and then the headliners Arcade Fire went on.
I'm not sure what I think of this band. A few of their songs have given me chills (most notably "Cold Wind," from the Six Feet Under show) but alot of their stuff just doesn't connect with me. In concert, they sure bring the bombast and the onstage overkill (way too many people up there!), but oddly, none of the tunes left much of an impression...in fact, a curious sameness set in about midway through...and, again, I was bored. I guess Arcade Fire just goes over my head -- while everyone around me lapped up the melodrama and the over-the-top earnestness, I just couldn't help thinking it was a very elaborate smokescreen, behind which was...what? Alot of average songs. I dunno, I could be wrong on this one.
Also over the course of 2k7 I caught a wonderful and intimate Patti Rothberg set at the Parkside Lounge (it was just she and Freddie and they sounded heavenly), several highly interactive Vic Thrill sets at the Lucky Cat in Williamsburg (Billy's a genius) and the mighty, block-rocking Chemical Brothers at McCarrin Pool (with the deadpan Ladytron as warm-up).
And now this late December night finds my tinnitus singing louder than ever, and I have the aforementioned musicians to thank. Let's rock in 2008!