Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch at the Delancey, NYC 10/23/08

“There is sometimes a band called Botanica,” the group’s frontman/keyboardist Paul Wallfisch told the motley crowd gathered around the improvised stage upstairs at the Delancey Thursday night. This was CMJ week, and as usual this year’s Colossal Musical Joke had turned some of most unlikely spots into impromptu venues. Apparently the stage downstairs was taken, so Wallfisch had to make do with an alcove across from the bar. Botanica’s story is typical of many of New York’s best bands: popular in Europe but apparently unable to get a record deal here (no great loss, given the state of the industry: the band undoubtedly does better without than with). Apparently, Wallfisch’s mates couldn’t make it for this show, so he stepped up and did it himself with some soulful assistance from Jeff Pierce – playing beautifully retro, buoyantly swinging muted trumpet throughout the too-brief, barely 40-minute set – and Bee & Flower frontwoman/composer Dana Schechter, who supplied characteristically fluid, warmly melodic basslines during the second half of the show. Wallfisch opened with a stately new song with a contemplative, bluesy, somewhat Tom Waits feel, alternating between ambient, gospelish organ and piano, occasionally stomping out a few chords on the toy piano he’d brought along possibly for some comic relief.


Then he and Pierce tackled the opening cut from Botanica’s most recent US release, Berlin Hi-Fi, the hauntingly regretful Eleganza and Wines. Not content to let the crowd merely observe, Wallfisch made a loop of the song’s beautifully restrained piano hook, then climbed on top of the bar and led the crowd in a clap-along in 7/8 time. And then he added a counter-rhythm. Sophisticated stuff for a rock crowd, but they were game. The rest of the show was a clinic in darkly terse keyboard artistry. Much of Botanica’s work has an unleashed menace, and this raised its head in places, but Wallfisch was more in a noir cabaret mood. He did a rustic new one in waltz time which he sang in French, then Three Women, its melody evoking the Strawbs’ classic apocalypse anthem New World, then a suspensefully quiet version of the creepy Shira and Sofia (see the band’s myspace page). He closed the set with the big Botanica crowd-pleaser How, bouncing along on the pulse from Schechter’s bass, tossing off a sardonic Riders on the Storm-style run down the scale toward the end. The crowd wanted more but there wasn’t time. Watch this space for future NYC shows by Botanica; Wallfisch plays piano with the incomparable, darkly torchy September song chanteuse Little Annie at Santo’s Party House on Nov 6 at 9.

October 25, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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