Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: LJ Murphy at the Knitting Factory, NYC 6/12/07

One of the most charismatic performers in rock, LJ Murphy and his band blazed through an incendiary performance including a lot of recent, unreleased material. Murphy was rocking his usual black suit, porkpie hat and Ray Charles shades, so it was impossible to see the expression on his face, but it was obvious from the start that he was especially amped for this show. This time around, in addition to his rhythm section, he had Jerome O’Brien from the Dog Show guesting on Rickenbacker guitar. O’Brien’s judiciously percussive fills and chordal work added a lush, jangling waterfall of textures to Murphy’s usual careening, blues-inflected sound. From beginning to end, Murphy belted his sharp, biting lyrics in a raspy baritone, with a characteristic panache that sometimes bordered on the theatrical. He’s quite the showman.

They opened with the tersely powerful Geneva Conventional, a minor-key cautionary tale about the dangers of selling out. They followed that with the bouncy, Elvis Costello-esque Damaged Goods. On the long, surreal Falling Backwards Up the Stairs, drummer Jonathan Levy set the tone for the rest of the night, flailing on the top of his ride cymbal as the song grew to a crescendo.

O’Brien added some welcome twang to the haunting country song Long Way to Lose. The dark undercurrent continued with the swinging, understatedly ominous Sleeping Mind, one of the most accurate depictions of clinical depression ever sung. Then they did the title track from Murphy’s latest album, Mad Within Reason, a Weimar blues with a scathing lyric that sounds as if it was written about the Bush regime (it wasn’t: it’s more of a general critique of creeping fascism). The beautiful, sad, 6/8 ballad Saturday’s Down, a vividly imagistic, symbolically loaded look at how fast the weekend goes by, was an audience singalong: the crowd of young women closest to the stage became an accidental choir. Murphy then played a brand-new song, possibly titled Lesson I Never Learned, a chronicle of misadventures in romance. After the bluesy Buffalo Red and the supercharged rocker Imperfect Strangers, he and the band closed the set with a bruising take of what is arguably his most potent song, the Velvet Underground-inflected Happy Hour. It’s an indelible portrait of the idiocy that sticks to you even after the workday is over:

Swallowing the two-for-ones
Dressed in chewing-gum cologne
Dancing in corporate uniforms
To the exalted metronome
As the aging dollies chuckle
At a joke that no one gets
Their daytime dramas wait at home
On videocassette

Then it was over, the band high-fiving each other, the lights went up and the house music went on.

Now what’s up with this new trend, not giving bands an encore? The audience screamed and roared for a long time while somebody’s ipod played over the PA. The sound guy fled the booth, not wanting to deal with the wrath of the crowd. Memo to venues: there’s an overproliferation of you. Alienate your customers and you’ll lose them. There are literally scoress of other places for people to see their favorite bands.

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June 13, 2007 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. […] 11, a rare early show by the finest practitioner of potent, lyrically charged New York noir rock, LJ Murphy and his band (now featuring System Noise’s phenomenal lead guitarist as well as the bass player […]

    Pingback by NYC Live Events Calendar 12/16-31/07 « Lucid Culture | December 17, 2007 | Reply

  2. […] At the Knitting Factory 6/12/07 https://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/concert-review-lj-murphy-at-the-knitting-factory-61207 At Galapagos 7/5/07 […]

    Pingback by Index « Lucid Culture | December 27, 2007 | Reply

  3. […] Jan 23, 8 PM sharp LJ Murphy plays Trash Bar, solo acoustic. One of the great charismatic showmen of our time, a dazzling, […]

    Pingback by NYC Live Music Calendar Jan/Feb 2008 « Lucid Culture | January 22, 2008 | Reply


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