Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Big Lazy at Luna 5/20/07

A luminous, mesmerizing performance. It’s impossible to imagine a more exciting band right now. The crowd was rapt. Many of the songs segued into another, but whenever the sound stopped, there was a noticeable moment of silence before the applause began. This was a particularly terse show for New York’s most exhilarating rock instrumentalists. Improvisation is usually the game plan for guitarist Steve Ulrich, upright bassist Paul Dugan and their impressively smooth new drummer. Tonight, it was all about the compositions throughout their tantalizingly brief 50-minute set: extended intros, outros and solos were kept to a minimum, which on one hand is too bad since that’s their meal ticket. No other band takes so many chances (unless maybe you count what’s left of the Grateful Dead) and flies without a net to the extent that these reverbed-out, surf and rockabilly-tinged noir soundtrack rockers do. The upside was that they got to show off a lot of new material from their brilliant new album Postcards from X along with a bunch of proven crowd-pleasers.

Ulrich and Dugan share a fondness for (some would say an inability to resist) haunting chromatics and menacing chordal work, so it was unusual for them to open with the uncharacteristically cheerful, major-key highway tune Junction City, from their first ep. A bit later, they played the opening cut on their classic, self-titled second album, Skinless Boneless, with Ulrich taking the solo of the night, an all-too-brief, screaming series of minor-key hooks, constantly shifting tones and textures by mixing up the pickups on his Gibson Les Paul and alternating between effects pedals. On a new song, Glitter Gulch, a loping spaghetti western number, Ulrich switched to baritone guitar.  Then it was Dugan’s turn to stun the audience with a sprinting, Ron Carter-ish solo on the lickety-split Princess Nicotine. As great a composer as Ulrich is, Dugan’s signature style of aggressively propulsive, melodic fingerpicking on his bass, along with a great deal of eerie, cello-style bowing is as essential to their sound as Ulrich’s trademark reverb attack.

Naked, another song from the new album, proved that they can play noise rock with anybody, although Ulrich reverted to melodic, melancholy mode at the very end. On Just Plain Scared, from the band’s second album, someone missed a cue, extending the lightning-fast drum intro and for awhile it wasn’t clear if the drummer was going to be able to make it into the song at that breakneck pace. Happily, he did. Toward the end of the set, Ulrich picked up his lapsteel and played an unreleased song, Black-Eyed Susan, on which he picked arpeggios and melody lines rather than creating washes of sound or chords, with a slide, as the instrument is typically played. He was in typically witty form between songs, telling the audience how a nasty disagreement between bandmates during a Yoko Ono performance at one of Tonic’s last shows resulted in Big Lazy not playing on the bill that particular night: “Yoko almost broke up another band,” Ulrich deadpanned. They wound up the set with a Paul Dugan composition, Hell in a Handbasket, with screechy, pizzicato bowed bass pedaling the same note and building tension while Ulrich supplied the firepower.

Happily, the sound in the club was superb, perhaps because Big Lazy’s studio engineer from the new album was on the sound board. Strangely, there was no band playing afterward, especially considering how Big Lazy seemed constricted to less than an hour onstage. Another set – or at least a longer set – would have been nice, but it was obvious that this was something the band had no control over. Even if they’d played longer, they still would have left the crowd wanting more.

May 21, 2007 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] At Luna 5/20/07 https://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2007/05/21/concert-review-big-lazy-at-luna-52007 Postcards from X […]

    Pingback by Index « Lucid Culture | January 13, 2008 | Reply


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