Posts tagged ‘Concert Review’

Kasabian @ Terminal 5, NYC 3/22/12

It’s official.  Swagger needs to be redefined.  No words necessary.  Just a picture of Kasabian, the English rock band currently touring the U.S. to promote their fourth album, Velociraptor!  Kasabian traveled across the Atlantic and landed at Terminal 5 in New York City on March 22, 2012, armed with vicious guitar riffs, pounding drums, and lead singer Tom Meighan’s charged vocals.

Coming on stage with 80s hair and tight jeans, emanating fearlessness while Youtube cameras streamed the concert live, Kasabian faced New York City’s crowd and immediately dove into Days Are Forgotten, a funky, merciless track off their new album.  It was pretty apparent by the end of Days that Kasabian had no right being at Terminal 5.  Their style of thrashing, in-your-face rock belongs in a stadium, where the epic choruses, sharp melodies and piercing drums are not confined to four walls.  Their power was evidenced in the way they owned the crowd, who at times were dancing so hard, it looked like a mass exorcism.

Meighan embraced the rock star persona, rarely taking off his sunglasses, continually popping the collar on his jean (yes, jean) jacket and leaning up against the speakers.  Meighan and guitarist (and occasional lead vocalist) Sergio Pizzorno constantly interacted with the crowd, pointing their mics at the audience, thanking the city of New York and at times ordering the masses to clap their hands.

The music translated well live and surprisingly had a more ferocious edge and funkier vibe than the albums.  The bass guitar and drums had a prominent role, giving the songs a heavier sound with recognizable old school blues influences. For a band with three guitarists, keyboardist and drummer all wildly attacking their instruments, you’d expect the sounds to bleed together and form a loud noise slightly resembling music.  However, every instrument was crystal clear, had its own standout moments during the show, and never overpowered Meighan’s strong and at times soulful vocals.  Even slowing things down with Thick as Thieves off their third album, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, the acoustics were dominant and Meighan’s control was pretty impressive.  The best part of the Thick as Thieves was the ending, which morphed into The Doors’ People are Strange.  However, the highlight of the show was Velociraptor! (the song), which personified Kasabian’s attitude and arrogance while the music and vocals swirled through the venue.

Kasabian played 14 tracks and threw in 3 more for the encore.  They left no stone unturned, playing songs from every album. It’s rare to see a band that is able to channel some of the great rock performers of the 60s, 70s and 80s and still be able to maintain their own identity.  Kasabian did both, and did it pretty damn well.

Setlist

Days Are Forgotten

Shoot the Runner 

Velociraptor!

Underdog 

Where Did All the Love Go? 

I.D.

Thick as Thieves 

Take Aim 

Club Foot 

Re‐Wired 

Empire 

Man of Simple Pleasures  

Stuntman 

L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever) 

 Encore:

Switchblade Smiles 

Vlad the Impaler 

Fire

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Tennis @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC 3/3/12

Ever since I was young I’ve wanted to go to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance with Lorraine.  Minus the cheesy decorations and (heartbreakingly) Lorraine, seeing Tennis live at Bowery Ballroom on March 3, 2012 is about as close as I’ll ever get.  Tennis, the husband and wife duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, make 50s and 60s era girl pop music with R&B and rock influences.  Tennis released their debut, Cape Dory in 2011 after an ocean voyage the couple took together and released their sophomore album, Young & Old, in February of 2012.

It was only fitting that Tennis would come on stage under a sea of blue lights which matched the color of the ocean that inspired their debut album.  The size of the band doubled for purposes of the tour, with an additional guitarist/keyboardist/tambourinist and drummer, which helped give Tennis a fuller sound live than I was expecting. 

The band’s stage presence is not one that immediately blows you away but slowly lures you in with Moore’s sultry vocals and the infectious melodies Riley strums on guitar.  It only takes a few songs before you realize that everyone in the audience is dancing…not just by themselves, but with each other.  It felt like being at a sock hop with hipsters serving as costume designers.  Moore mostly stayed trapped behind her keyboard (eyes closed) during the show while the rest of the group also remained stationary.  The only movements were the few songs where the band members switched instruments or during the more special moments when Moore left the synthesizer behind and stood before the audience, belting out luscious melodies while vibrantly dancing, kicking her knees up and tossing her hair around.

The group played a balanced mix of songs from the debut album as well as the new release.  They even showcased a new song that they wrote on the road displaying the band’s R&B chops and Riley’s pulsating guitar riff.  Like most songs, the theme was one that captures the high school crush, and the hook was no different.  You’re the one I’ve been looking for/You’re the one I’ve been waiting for.  The new song, like the new album, shows off Tennis’s more aggressive side.  While they haven’t lost that innocence that was so prevalent on the first album, Young & Old sounds like a band that is a little wiser, a little older and its insistence on soulful vocals and fuzzier, more prominent guitars translates amazingly well live.

Since I’m still absorbing the new album, the highlights for me were the songs from Cape Dory, notably Long Boat Pass, the saccharine filled and cymbals smashing Baltimore, and the concert singalong, Cape Dory, where the “sha la la” was about 500 people strong.  Like the albums, the concert was short and sweet, running about an hour even with the three song encore.  To be honest, I went into the show tired, a bit dazed and dreading the band’s 11:00 pm set time.  By the end of the show, I felt like I was on a sugar high and I wasn’t the only one either.  As I left the show and walked outside, the other concertgoers swarmed the sidewalk, still singing and dancing, refusing to let the good time end.

Concert Review – My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses @ Madison Square Garden, 12/14/11

Finishing off a year of festival appearances and headlining concerts to promote their sixth studio release, Circuital, My Morning Jacket closed out their tour with another amazing concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Wednesday, December 14, 2011.  Adding to the mystique of being at the last MMJ show of the year was that another great band, Band of Horses, was the opening act.

BAND OF HORSES

It was surprising to see how few people were present to catch Band of Horses, who promptly took the stage at 7:30 p.m.  BOH hit its stride with its second album, Cease to Begin but slightly faltered with Infinite Arms, an attempt to create a more radio-accessible album.  However, Infinite Arms still has a few gems that translated very well in a live setting.  As the band played their hour-long set, fans slowly trickled into the arena and were able to catch classics like The First Song, from their debut album, Everything All the Time, and stellar new tracks like Older.

There was no fancy setup for Band of Horses.  In fact, they played on a stage that was already consumed with instruments and equipment prepared for My Morning Jacket.  Whether it was the cluttered setting or their subtle stage presence, Band of Horses, for the most part, remained mostly stationary during their entire setlist.  While you typically demand more animation from a live performance, the subdued performance actually served as the perfect introduction.  Preceding one of the best live acts of the past few years, it would be a mistake to outdo or even attempt to match the energy and awe created by MMJ.  Band of Horses gladly welcomed their role as an appetizer, whetting the appetite to a stunning main course.

They oddly started the show with the somber Cigarettes, Wedding Bands.  While this is a solid track, it failed to spark the crowd, which was bursting with excitement for the one-two punch of BOH and MMJ.  However, they quickly shook that off with the upbeat The Great Salt Lake.

Ben Bridwell’s vocals were shockingly piercing and powerful at the massive venue and shined brightest on Funeral and No One’s Gonna Love You as an enchanting vision of trees set against a starry night sky set the backdrop on a large screen behind the band.  The band’s most powerful moment was Is There a Ghost at the moment where the song’s tempo races forward and all the instruments begin thrashing.  The most perfect visual/audio combination occurred on Islands on the Coast, a festive track that was matched by the quickly flashing photographs of the band, their friends, and their random live performances at outdoor venues.

BOH interestingly and, in my opinion, perfectly ended their set with a soulful cover of Am I a Good Man originally by Them Two.  However, it was amusing hearing Ben sing a song that has recently been sampled by Ghostface Killah on the song Purified Thoughts.  Overall, Band of Horses provided a solid, albeit safe, opening set.

MY MORNING JACKET

                                                                                                

The arena was packed with a sea of people when My Morning Jacket took the stage at 9:00 p..m.  Matching the color from Circuital’s album cover, MMJ came out to a green glow and proceeded with a mystical opening thanks to the haunting intro for Victory Dance.  As is typical with most My Morning Jacket shows, the energy was palpable in an audience that surprisingly was a mix of a vast age range, from teenagers to likely original Woodstock attendees.  This was the first MMJ show I can recall when a healthy percentage of people was above the age of 50.  My guess is that the Jacket’s reputation as the best live jam band touring today is what pulled in fans of the bands of the 60s and 70s that embraced instrumental journeys at their shows.

Wonderful (The Way I Feel)

Wonderful (The Way I Feel)

There were numerous highlights at this show.  First was on the third song of the night, It Beats 4 U, off of the impeccable Z, which had a massive instrumental to close the track.  Ben Bridwell came back onto the stage to help Jim James with Wonderful.  With two vocalists, one guitar and a subtle drum, Wonderful was strikingly intimate and heartfelt.

The horns section strolled onto the stage to help with the uplifting, joyous Dancefloors.  With the brass blasting and Bo Koster assaulting the piano, Dancefloors enveloped the arena and turned it into a thousands strong dance party.  Also incredible was Dondante, which had the standard, sexy and haunting saxophone solo by Carl Broemel.  However, what made this version unique was the assistance on the track by Brian Jackson, the Brooklyn-born flautist, who’s flute added a new bewitching dimension to the song.

Smoking From Shooting had an uncharacteristically great tribal drum intro and the acoustic Bermuda Highway, with just Jim and a spotlight, filled the entire arena to the point where it felt like the walls would burst.  The band capped off the show with the timely Bing Crosby song, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, assisted by the entire cast of Band of Horses.

Holdin On to Black Metal

One Big Holiday, the definitive live MMJ track, was festive as always.  However, it is undeniable that the funky, hard rockin’ Holdin On To Black Metal is becoming a standard for My Morning Jacket concerts.  With a fun chorus and Jim’s playful, infectious vocals, it is impossible to stand still and not scream this song at the top of your lungs.

The band played for a mind-blowing 2 1/2 hours and played a multitude of songs from pretty much every album.  There was something for every MMJ fan, old and new.

The visuals at this show were more present than at prior My Morning Jacket shows.  With the giant screen displaying the album cover (a magic eye tube fitted onto vintage radio receivers from the 1930s) at times in holographic form, and at other times ominously glowing with trees or spinning stars, MMJ wanted to make a spectacle that assaulted the eye as well as the ear.   At one point, Jim stated that MSG was “The Greatest Circus Tent Ever Assembled.”  It was a sentence that encapsulated the night and provides for the ideal analogy – with the band as the talent in the center ring and Jim as the caped ringmaster.  An epic show from start to finish with a near flawless setlist, My Morning Jacket ended their 2011 tour in grand style…which, thankfully, is the only way they know how.

BAND OF HORSES SETLIST:

1. Cigarettes, Wedding Bands

2. The Great Salt Lake

3. Is There a Ghost

4. The General Specific

5. For Annabelle

6. The First Song

7. Islands on the Coast

8. Older

9. No One’s Gonna Love You

10. Infinite Arms

11. Ode to LRC

12. The Funeral

13. Am I a Good Man

MY MORNING JACKET SETLIST:

1. Victory Dance

2. Circuital

3. It Beats 4 U

4. First Light

5. I’m Amazed

6. Wonderful (The Way I Feel)

7. Steam Engine

8. Outta My System

9. Dancefloors

10. Golden

11. Mahgeetah

12. Dondante

13. Smokin From Shootin

14. Run Thru

15. Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2

16. Off the Record

17. Gideon

Encore

18. Bermuda Highway

19. Wordless Chorus

20. The Day is Coming

21. The Bottle (Gil Scott-Heron Cover)

22. Holdin on to Black Metal

23. One Big Holiday

24. I’ll Be Home for Christmas

 

Concert Review – The Antlers @ Webster Hall 12/10/11

The Antlers walked on stage and, without a word, dove right into Parentheses, the third song off their breakthrough sophomore album, Burst Apart.  It was an interesting and perfect intro into a concert that focused on the trippy and extended versions of the majority of songs on their second record.  The end of Parentheses was an extended wild instrumental that clued the crowd into the fact that they would not just be hearing precise repetition of Hospice and Burst Apart.

Next up was No Widows, which had an incredible introduction utilizing a psychedelic-infused piano sound.  This song was one of the highlights of the concert, showcasing Peter Silberman’s ethereal voice and unique harmonies that were not on the album version of the song.

The group followed up with Kettering and French Exit.  Then came Atrophy, which expanded on and elevated the album version, mostly due to an epic ending with all the instruments building up and filling the venue with an expansive sound.

Corsicana did not stray much from the album but Silberman’s yearning vocals plowed through the crowd and the mood set by glowing blue lights only enhanced the overall emotion of the song. 

Rolled Together started with a subtle introduction that slowly started to resemble, then turn into the introduction to the album version of the song.  This time around, yellow lights mixed with Webster Hall’s heavy use of smoke machines created an amber glow that consumed the entire venue.

Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out was sharp and powerful live, followed by Hounds, which for the most part is the polar opposite in tempo as Every Night.  While Hounds was impressive, I was hoping they would play a song that would build upon the prior track.

However, they quickly recovered with Putting the Dog to Sleep which had a more stripped down feel to it, focusing on swirling electronics.  The sharp guitars pierced through Webster Hall and Silberman’s voice had a passion that was building up throughout the show.

The encore kicked off perfectly with I Don’t Want Love, then Sylvia, and finishing appropriately, Epilogue.

The crowd got their money’s worth, with the band playing for an hour and half.  Overall, this was a strong concert showcasing the band’s talents and ability to expand upon their songs, making them more grandiose and musically complex. They weren’t there to play their songs but to take the audience on a journey through their albums.

While I’m a huge fan of the band and an equally big fan of Webster Hall, their concerts may actually be a victim of their success.  The Antlers are an intimate band, creating emotional songs that are meant to connect with the audience.  Even though Webster Hall only has a capacity of about 2,500, something is lost with them playing at a venue of this size, where you are looking to find that closeness with a band that makes you feel as though you are a part of the show.  Even so, they put on a impressive show that presented a confident band ready to embrace the next level of success that the creators of Burst Apart definitely deserve.

Concert Review – First Aid Kit @ Mercury Lounge, NYC 11/16/11

Walking into First Aid Kit’s show at Mercury Lounge, you knew that you were going to hear amazing harmonies from the two folk singing Swedish sisters, Johanna and Klara Soderberg.  What you didn’t know was that the harmonies would be so perfect and so crystal clear, that it would leave the audience frozen during the whole show.  Very rarely have I ever been to a concert where people stood still, in awe of musicians who did not use any fancy lighting or lasers to keep the audience’s attention.

With a Swedish film crew at the show, the sisters were intent on providing a memorable show with backstories to some of the songs and some humor to keep the crowd from being bulldozed with each song’s emotional weight.  Surprisingly, the band played only a few songs off of their debut album, The Big Black & Blue (which I’ll be reviewing at a later date), and focused more on b-sides, songs from their EP, Drunken Trees, and songs from their upcoming album, Lion’s Roar, coming out in early 2012.

The two young women stood front and center the entire show, with one working piano and the other an acoustic guitar.  Each song was simple and pure, clean and affecting.  They engaged the audience constantly, whether it was to jokingly tell us to behave for the camera crew, or assure us that the song Waltz for Richard, had absolutely nothing to do with Richard Gere…maybe. The songs seemed reminiscent live as though the Soderberg sisters were singing about cherished old memories.

The songs from the new album were easily identifiable since they were produced in the U.S. and had more complex arrangements and a more uptempo, commercially appealing sound.  The perfect example was Lion’s Roar, the last song of the show, which is the title track of their sophomore album.  They rocked out to this song, hair whipping…unlike anything they’ve done before.

However, the highlight of the show was Ghost Town (below) where the sisters stepped away from the microphones to sing this sad, somber song.  In any other venue with any other audience, it would be difficult, if not impossible to hear Johanna and Klara, but at Mercury Lounge, with this audience, the vocals of this talented young duo were heard loud and clear.  It wasn’t long before the entire crowd joined in the song, making it feel like we were all part of the band. It is songs – and shows – like this that remind you how personal and intimate music can be.

Concert Review – Youth Lagoon @ Mercury Lounge, NYC, 11/14/11

Like Youth Lagoon’s debut album, their live show keeps it pretty simple.  Trevor Powers on piano and vocals, Logan Hyde on guitar, and a soundboard. No mas.  On November 14, 2011, Youth Lagoon played at the small, intimate Mercury Lounge in New York City.  At 11:05 p.m., strolling on stage calmly in a ragged shirt and baseball cap, Trevor sat at his piano, said a quick hello, and began the show with Posters, one of the stronger songs on Youth Lagoon’s debut album, The Year of Hibernation.

This was a great show that maintained the tone and quality of the album, and the setting matched the emotion perfectly.  The only light for the show was provided by two red lightbulbs and three lights planted in the ceiling, creating an intimate vibe, a private show for Youth Lagoon’s closest friends.  Whatever electronics Youth Lagoon used during the show, it worked, creating an ethereal sound that, combined with the red lighting, felt like the show was taking place in a dark cave.

Unlike the album, where Trevor’s vocals never overpower the music, his voice in concert dominated.  While he strained through each track (he told the crowd he had a sore throat…and that he was hopped up on cough syrup), he kept perfect pitch and sang with despair and affection.

Overall, the songs were more upbeat and uptempo live than on the album; maybe it was his voice, or the electric guitar which also had more prominence live than on the album.  Either way, you felt the emotion of songs live and the two men alone on stage only amplified the feelings of loneliness and isolation that so many of the songs are centered on.