October 3rd, 2013 12:43pm
Some Thoughts On Recent Concerts
I skipped writing about a lot of these in the past couple weeks for whatever reason, but let’s catch up on things.
Phoenix @ Barclays Center 10/2/2013
Entertainment / Lasso / Lisztomania / Long Distance Call / Fences / Rally / The Real Thing / Too Young – Girlfriend / S.O.S. In Bel Air / Run Run Run / Trying To Be Cool – Drakkar Noir / Chloroform / Sunskrupt! / Consolation Prizes / Armistice / 1901 / Countdown / If I Ever Feel Better – Funky Squaredance // Rome / Entertainment (Reprise)
I’ve seen a fair number of Phoenix shows going back to the Alphabetical era, and in all cases those have been gigs in clubs or relatively small-scale venues, so I’ve been very curious to see how their act translates in an arena. It worked pretty well – the audience, particularly the people on the floor, were definitely super excited through the whole show, and they’ve got enough undeniable pop songs that they can play a show that feels like a very satisfying hit parade. Their arena game could use some work, though – better visuals and staging would go a long way, and also some way of shifting the dynamic/momentum around the middle of the show. They mix it up a lot at the end, mainly by having Thomas Mars go out into the audience, and that works really well – he’s not the most wildly charismatic dude, but he makes up for that by being really enthusiastic and willing to physically engage with his fans and the space of whatever venue he’s in. This show ended with him running around half the venue and back through the floor, and getting crowd-surfed back to the stage before inviting at least 150 fans to dance on stage. That was totally exciting, and if they want to keep performing on this level, they should explore more ideas like that which can be peppered throughout the performance.
Tame Impala @ Terminal 5 10/1/2013
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind? / Solitude Is Bliss / Endors Toi / Apocalypse Dreams / Half Full Glass of Wine / Elephant / Music To Walk Home By / Be Above It / Feels Like We Only Go Backwards / Mind Mischief / Oscilly / Desire Be Desire Go / Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Ben Anything We Could Control
Tame Impala is another band that should invest in some visuals for their live performances – they need to give you something to look at and zone out to, because they’re just sort of dull to look at. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that their groovy psychedelia comes across very well in concert, but it should be noted that they’re good enough to be exciting even when playing at a venue with such horrible sound that they had about as much low end as if they were playing through a clock radio. The bass, so deep and warm on record, just did not have the appropriate volume and resonance, and that was just bullshit.
The Flaming Lips @ Terminal 5 10/1/2013
Look…The Sun Is Rising / The Terror / The W.A.N.D. / Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast / Silver Trembling Hands / Race For The Prize / Try To Explain / Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die / Turning Violent / A Spoonful Weighs A Ton // Do You Realize??
The Flaming Lips were the reverse of Tame Impala in this show. Their current staging and lighting is astonishing and great, it’s like checking out a great piece of installation art that just so happens to include a performance by Wayne Coyne and his pals. The music itself was just kinda ok, though, and I say this as a longtime fan of the band. The material from The Terror is sort of dull and listless in concert – the album is interesting as a portrait of a depressed mind, but that doesn’t really translate on stage. Even when the band was playing excellent oldies like “The W.A.N.D.” and “Silver Trembling Hands,” there was this nagging sense that the staging was carrying the show, and that Wayne Coyne was frustrated with the audience not being as amped up as they might have been for previous iterations of their live show.
Atoms For Peace @ Barclays Center 9/27/2013
Before Your Very Eyes… / Default / The Clock / Ingenue / Stuck Together Pieces / Unless / And It Rained All Night / Harrowdown Hill / Dropped / Cymbal Rush // Skip Divided / Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses / Rabbit In Your Headlights / Paperbag Writer / Amok /// Atoms For Peace / Black Swan
This was such a weird show. I’ve seen Radiohead many times in large venues and I know that Thom Yorke has a big persona that can connect on a large level, but everything about this show seemed like him doing everything he could to disrupt all the things that make him and his music connect with people. I think The Eraser and Amok are interesting records and probably a necessary artistic outlet for the sort of ideas that clearly would get vetoed by the other members of Radiohead, and in a mostly abstract intellectual way, I appreciate how he explores small, complicated emotions and tight, complicated rhythmic patterns. But there’s still something odd about watching one of the most talented musicians of the past two decades avoid all of his strengths as an artist. My main take away from this show was that people love Thom Yorke SO MUCH that they’re willing to pay a lot of money to see him play the weakest material of his career with the bass player from Red Hot Chili Peppers. But hey, Flea was the best thing about this show – he has a surprising chemistry with Yorke, and he brought a liveliness, funk, and physicality that kept the show from being overly cerebral.
Vampire Weekend @ Barclays Center 9/20/2013
Cousins / White Sky / Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa / Diane Young / Unbelievers / Holiday / Step / Horchata / Everlasting Arms / Finger Back / California English / A-Punk / Boston (Ladies of Cambridge) / Ya Hey / Don’t Lie / Song 2 / Campus / Oxford Comma / Giving Up The Gun / Obvious Bicycle // Hannah Hunt / One (Blake’s Got A New Face) / Walcott
This show was just so, so, so great. An excellent performance, but more than that, just a generous selection of uniformly excellent songs played with a lot of spark and inspiration for a very enthusiastic audience. I was up in the cheap seats for this one, but I really lucked out in that I was in this section full of young, dance-happy girls who were freaking out over Ezra like he was the intellectual indie version of Justin Bieber. And I guess he is! I would’ve been really into this no matter what, but being right by people who are that psyched up for anything will always improve the experience. Also, oh my god, the alternate guitars-only version of “Don’t Lie” in this set was heart-stopping and I really hope a nice recording of that arrangement turns up before too long.
Solange @ Barclays Center 9/20/2013
I don’t have full notes for this but she definitely played: Lovers In The Parking Lot, Losing You, Stillness Is The Move, and Sandcastle Disco
I like Solange, but wow, she is not suited to playing an arena at all. Her persona is engaging in close quarters, but from a distance, she’s just sort of dull and flat, and that ends up making you realize how much of her material is sort of bland and under-written. The set picked up a bit when she played stronger material like “Stillness Is The Move” and “Losing You,” but her presence doesn’t register from far away. She was trying to get people dancing and moving, and that only made it more awkward – if you have to nag the audience to do that stuff, it just makes it feel weird for everyone.
Sky Ferreira @ Barclays Center 9/20/2013
Boys / 24 Hours / Heavy Metal Heart / I Blame Myself / You’re Not The One / Everything Is Embarrassing
Sky Ferreira made a lot more sense in an arena. She focused on big rock songs from her upcoming album, and the space was perfectly suited to the huge choruses of numbers like “I Blame Myself” and “Heavy Metal Heart.” I’d never heard them before, but they were immediately exciting and felt familiar to me by the second chorus. She’s still sort of awkward, but the material is strong and her voice is confident.