Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Powerpop Trifecta at Bowery Electric

Wednesday night at Bowery Electric, Don Piper and his group opened the evening with a richly melodic, often hypnotic set. Piper’s primary gig these days is producing great albums – the Oxygen Ponies’ lushly layered, darkly psychedelic classic Harmony Handgrenade is one of his credits – but he’s also a bandleader. This time out he alternated between slowly swirling, atmospheric, artsy rock and a vintage Memphis soul sound, backed by a large, spirited crew including keyboards, a two-piece horn section (with Ray Sapirstein from Lenny Molotov’s band on cornet), bass and the Silos’ Konrad Meissner on drums (doing double duty tonight, as would many of the other musicians). Midway through the set Briana Winter took over centerstage and held the crowd silent with her wary, austerely intense, Linda Thompson-esque voice on a couple of midtempo ballads. They closed with a long, 1960s style soul number, Piper and Winter joining in a big crescendo as the band slowly circled behind them.

Edward Rogers followed, backed by much of the same band including Piper, Meissner, Claudia Chopek on violin and Ward White playing bass. A British expat, Rogers’ wry, lyrical songs draw on pretty much every good British pop style through the mid-70s. The most modern-sounding song, a pounding, insistent number, evoked the Psychedelic Furs, White throwing in some Ventures-style tremolo-picking on his bass at a point where nobody seemed to be looking. Whatever You’ve Been Told, from Rogers’ latest album Sparkle Lane, held an impassioned, uneasy ambience that brought to mind early David Bowie. A pensive, midtempo backbeat tune with a refrain about the “seventh string on your guitar, the one you never use” reminded of the Move (like Roy Wood, Rogers hails from Birmingham), as did a bracingly dark new one, Porcelain, highlighted by some striking, acidic violin from Chopek. And a pair of Beatles homages wouldn’t have been out of place on the Rutles albums – or George’s later work with Jeff Lynne. But the best songs were the most original ones. The most stunning moment of the night came on the understatedly bitter Passing the Sunshine, a Moody Blues-inflected requiem for an edgy downtown New York destroyed by greedy developers, gentrifiers and the permanent-tourist class: “This’ll be the last time you steal with your lies,” Rogers insisted, over and over again. In its gentle, resolute way, it was as powerful as punk. They wound up the show with a surprisingly bouncy psychedelic pop tune and then the new album’s droll, swaying title track.

Seeing headliner Maura Kennedy onstage with a bright red Les Paul slung from her shoulder was a surprise, as it was to see her guitar genius husband Pete Kennedy in the back with the drums, leaving most of the solos to his wife. But as fans of their acoustic project the Kennedys know, she’s an excellent player – and also one of the most unselfconsciously soulful voices in rock, or folk, if you want to call them that. This was her powerpop set, many of the songs adding a subtly Beatlesque or Americana edge to fast new wave guitar pop. The best songs were the darker ones, including the bitterly pulsing 1960s style psych/pop hit Just the Rain. Sun Burns Gold swayed hauntingly and plaintively, leaving just a crack for the light to get in; another minor-key number, Chains was absolutely gorgeous in a jangly Dancing Barefoot garage-pop vein, and she used that as a springboard for one of several sharply staccato, chordally charged solos. “I wrap myself in melancholy comfort of the waiting game,” she sang on a brooding ballad that evoked Richard and Linda Thompson. But there were just as many upbeat moments. White, who was doing double duty despite being under the weather, took an unexpected and welcome bass solo on a funkily hypnotic number toward the end of the set; they wound it up with the first song she’d written, she said, the country-pop ballad Summer Coulda Lasted Forever. The rest of the musicians joined them for an amazingly tight, completely deadpan cover of A Day in the Life, Maura leading her little orchestra with split-second precision all the way through the two long, interminable crescendos, a wry vocal from her husband on Paul’s verse, and then up and up and up some more and then finally out. It was an apt way to end a night of similarly expert craftsmanship.

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December 10, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bedsit Poets Live at Banjo Jims, NYC 2/6/08

This show validates our Rainy Day Theory, that the ideal time to go out is during a monsoon or a blizzard because there are hardly any crowds to compete with, and the musicians onstage, driven by anger and frustration at the skies, often turn in an incandescent show. Even minus the big stage and big powerful PA system that the Bedsit Poets are used to – and also minus their bass player – they still delivered a lush set full of sweeping grandeur and soaring three-part harmonies. Lead guitarist Mac Randall’s Fender clanged and sang like a Rickenbacker; drummer Nancy Polstein had absolute command of the room with her subtle, quietly nuanced rimshots and accents (and played piano on one song, impressively well), while singers Amanda Thorpe and Ed Rogers traded parts and jokes and dazzled with their voices. Both of these two British expats love their 60s rock – if there’s ever another Austin Powers movie, this band should do the soundtrack – and sing as if they were brought up on it, which perhaps they were. They opened with the catchy Simple Twist of Emotion, from their debut album The Summer That Changed (whose deliciously jangly title track they also played). On a new number, perhaps titled Misery, Rogers clearly enjoyed playing a raffish, underworldly character versus Thorpe’s straitlaced persona. After a beautiful, darkly jangly 6/8 ballad sung by Thorpe, they played a bossa song with lots of harmonies, everyone in the band’s frontline singing a different lyric at one point, Randall obviously reveling in the complexities of the melody (titled Every Day I Fall in Love with You Again, maybe?)

“This one Amanda wrote in five minutes,” said Rogers with a straight face, as the band launched into an impressively bluesy cover of Dylan’s You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine, Randall tossing off a few spot-on Bloomfield/Langhorne licks at the end. They ended the set with a big slow anthem evocative of the Church, its gorgeous, arpeggiated melody unfurling slowly and majestically, and closed with an original that Rogers said was a tribute to T Rex. What a treat to be able to hear such an inspiring, uplifting show in such an intimate setting.

February 7, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment