Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Tenor Saxophonist Tom Tallitsch Puts Out His Best, Most Darkly Intense Album

Tom Tallitsch is one of the major composers in jazz right now and a dynamic force on the tenor sax as well. As a radio host, he’s also advocated for under-the-radar artists from the New York jazz scene. His latest, excellent album Gratitude is streaming at Posi-Tone Records; he’s leading a quartet this Saturday night, May 6 at Minton’s, with sets at 7 and 9:30 PM. Cover is $10; if you want a table, there’s a two-item minimum.

This is a very emotionally charged record; the unifying theme is sad departures and welcome arrivals. The opening track, Terrain, is a sonic road trip. Jon Davis’ piano anchors an allusively Middle Eastern intensity as drummer Rudy Royston flurries and spirals, the bandleader leading the charge into a more-or-less free interlude that this era’s great extrovert behind the kit pulls back onto the rails,

Tallitsch and bassist Peter Brendler double the melody as the tricky metrics of Kindred Spirit sway along over an implied clave, the bandleader’s bristling, smoke-tinged solo giving way to a deliciously suspenseful one from Davis and then a broodingly modal one from the bass.

The group’s reinvention of a generic old Fleetwood Mac song isn’t even recognizable until the first chorus; the wayDavis’ gold dust piano spins into blues, eerie passing tones and then back is a revelation, as is Talitsch’s magically dynamic, shivery, nuanced solo that follows as guest Brian Charette’s organ swells behind him.

The briskly swinging Refuge brings to mind Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Charlie Parker-fixated material, Davis’ scampering solo at the center. The uneasily modal Northeast is just plain one of the best jazz songs released in recent months, fueled by Tallitsch’s soberly cinematic drive, Davis’ masterful fugal tradeoffs and Brendler’s aching bends as Royston rattles the traps.

The album’s most epic track, Alternate Side is a rapdifire swing shuffle, a long launching pad for Tallitsch chromatics and a scurryingly droll Davis solo. More bands should cover the Beatles’ Because (you should hear Svetlana & the Delancey Five play Rob Garcia’s New Orleans funeral march chart for it). These guys’ version is similarly elegaic but more spare.

The broodingly funky, swaying Rust Belt aptly evokes a gritty post-industrial milieu with more tasty Tallitsch modalities, echoed by Davis and Brendler as Royston puts the torch to the remaining brickwork. The album’s title track is a gospel-infused pastoral jazz waltz and arguably its catchiest number. It’s definitely a new style for Tallitsch, but he nails it.

Oblivion isn’t anywhere near as disconsolate (or intoxicated) as the title would imply, but it’s got bite, Royston’s fierce drive straightening it out as Davis and the bandleader parse its modalities for anger and irony. The album winds up with a comfortably, loosely swinging take of Led Zep’s Thank You, Charette and Davis taking the band to church. Not only is this Tallitsch’s best album, iIt’s hard to think of a more ceaselessly interesting, tuneful jazz release over the last few months.

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May 3, 2017 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devious, Witty, Swinging Tunefulness from the Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet

The Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet’s album The Sound of a Broken Reed is a quintessentially New York creation. With its edgy humor and intelligence, it’s steeped in history but just as irreverent, pretty much what you would expect from a bunch of longtime downtown types jazzing up Debussy, Piazzolla and Led Zep. Yet as entertaining and amusing as the covers here are, it’s bandleader Charley Gerard’s compositions that stand out the most. As you may have guessed, the album title is sarcastic: the charts are lustrous, the ensemble plays seamlessly and the songs swing just as hard as they would if there were bass and drums on them. The only other instrument besides the saxes (Gerard on alto, Jenny Hill primarily on soprano, Chris Bacas mostly on tenor and Alden Banta on baritone) is Carl Banner’s elegant piano on the first two suites. Most of the album, as well as a considerable amount of equally intriguing, more recent material, is streaming at the group’s Soundcloud page.

The opening diptych is Gerard’s Quintet for Carl and Saxes, Banner’s third-stream lyricism followed by lush four-part harmonies that grow to a majestic waltz. The second part is a wry series of interwoven miniatures that’s basically a non-linear history of jazz: ragtime, lounge, a little noir amd sumptuous big band swing, capped off by a genial soprano solo by Bacas.

The second suite is Dick Hyman’s droll Novelties for Piano and Sax Quartet: jaunty ragtime, a couple of lively staccato strolls and a comedic polka/ragtime hybrid. They follow that with Gerard’s Quartet No. 3, bookending a pensive exchange of voices led by Banta with variations on a theme that very artfully coalesces out of lively, dancing counterpoint.

The Led Zep comes after that. Humor-wise, it’s a lot like the Threeds Oboe Trio’s take on the Doors or Michael Jackson, equal parts spoof and opportunity to have fun with taking old themes to new places. Whole Lotta Love and an unexpectedly anxious, rather radical remake of Dazed and Confused are barely recognizable until halfway through, while miniature versions of Heartbreaker and Kashmir are as irresistibly over the top as you could possibly want. Living Loving Maid falls somewhere in between.

Tom Olin takes over for Bacas on tenor (with Hill playing soprano, as she does with a judicious elan on most of the tracks) on three Gerard remakes of Summer, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The first has a balmy Miles Ahead vibe and adheres closest to the baroque, the second a lively, bluesy exchange of voices, the third a mashup with Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay, done as a clave tune

Bacas moves back to his usual tenor, Olin to soprano for his arrangement of Debussy’s Syrinx for Solo Flute, fleshed out with a nod to Gil Evans, weaving the pensive melody through the whole ensemble. Gerard’s medley of popular Cuban melodies (De Cuba Para La Habana, Guantanamera, Bilonto and El Manicero) bops along with a sunny pulse, followed by Hill’s pensively airy, understatedly majestic waltz arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s Chiquilín de Bachín. It’s a rare blend of edgy fun and razor-sharp chops.

For anyone who might take exception to giving this much ink to an album that came out in 2009, that’s old thinking. Exciting as the past year has been, if the only music we listened to was brand-new, nobody would have heard of Coltrane or Mingus.

January 4, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/6/11

Every day, pretty much that is, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #511:

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

At the risk of losing our entire subscriber base, here’s something that might be kind of obvious to some of you and completely offensive to the rest (don’t worry, we’ll be back with more obscure stuff momentarily). In order to “get” Led Zep, you have to remember that they were a bunch of hippies, consequently, they didn’t take themselves all that seriously (especially the goofball singer). Ironically, this is the one place where they reached for epic grandeur and actually nailed it, particularly on the magnificently arranged, utterly chilling Ten Years Gone and the eleven-minute bluesmetal epic In My Time of Dying. The rest of this sprawling 1974 double album is eclectic to the extreme: woozy stoner metal like Custard Pie, Sick Again (a prototype for AC/DC) and the tongue-in-cheek prog-rock Houses of the Holy; In the Light, with its almost nine-minute, twisted Indian vibe that the Beatles reached for but never quite achieved; Trampled Under Foot, which sounds like Stevie Wonder gone metal; the delicate instrumental Bron-Yr-Aur; the gentle, bucolic Down by the Seaside; the completely sick funk-metal of The Wanton Song; The Rover, a midtempo riff-rocker; Night Flight, a 1971 shot at a pop hit with swirling organ; an amusing Beggars Banquet-era Stones ripoff, a jam with the Stones’ keyboardist, and, oh yeah, that song from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Here’s a random torrent.

September 6, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Triplebill of the Year

We move from the year’s best doublebill to the best triplebill of 2011 so far: Caithlin De Marrais, the Oxygen Ponies and Randi Russo at the Mercury on Sunday night, where Russo was playing the cd release show for her new one Fragile Animal (our pick for best of the year, maybe not so coincidentally). Each act was different, and yet the same (other than the fact that each one was playing with two drummers, Ray Rizzo and Konrad Meissner, whose interlocking, earthy groove was an unexpected treat). Tuneful, intense rock doesn’t get any better than this.

Caithlin De Marrais’ 2008 album My Magic City had a gorgeous rainy-day atmosphere: this was her fun set, material from an auspicious forthcoming album now being mixed. The former Rainer Maria bass player chose her spots and made her riffs count: few bassists get so much mileage out of such simple ideas. Often the bass carried the melody above Josh Kaufman’s ringing, jangly guitar. A few times, De Marrais would run a riff for a bar or two before launching into the next song: “You’ve got to watch, they catch up with you,” she grinned, “Not that you have watch your back in this town anymore.” As someone who was here before there was a “luxury” condo project on every ghetto block, she knows what she’s talking about. Kaufman made his ideas count for just as much, firing off suspenseful volleys of reverb-infused Sputnik staccato, or throwing shards of jangly chords into the mix. De Marrais is best known for plaintiveness and poignancy, and with characteristic nuance she added a more upbeat tinge to her vocals. Half the bands in Bushwick rip off New Order, but what De Marrais does with simple, catchy 80s hooks takes the idea to the next level. One of the new ones, maybe titled Cocoon, had a moody bounce; another new one, Rose Wallpaper, added carefree ba-ba-ba pop flourishes; still another paired off a bass riff straight out of Joy Division’s Ceremony with Kaufman’s pointillistic punch. The end of the set gave De Marrais the chance to cut loose and belt with impressive power, particularly a stomping, garage rock-tinged number with some ferocious guitar chord-chopping at the end, and a dead ringer for Scout that fell and then rose, apprehensive yet hopeful. “Just a dreamer after all…but let’s try,” De Marrais cajoled.

Where her vocals were all unselfconscious beauty, the Oxygen Ponies’ frontman Paul Megna doesn’t shy away from ugliness, or outright rage. And yet, when his vocals were up high enough in the mix, he was also all about nuance, adding more than the hint of a snarl to drive a particularly corrosive lyric home. This particular version of the OxPos (a revolving cast of characters) featured the drummers along with Don Piper on lead guitar, Devin Greenwood on keys and Chris Buckridge on bass. Their first song kept the New Order vibe going, followed by the cruelly sarcastic psychedelic pop of Fevered Cyclones, from their 2009 Harmony Handgrenade album. A hypnotic dirge from their highly anticipated forthcoming one sounded like the Church, with eerie, echoey guitar from Piper, building to a soaring anthem. The brooding, bitter Get Over Yrself gave Piper the chance to add his own corrosive noiserock edge; a more hopeful new anthem rose to a big swell fueled by Ray Sapirstein’s trumpet. They wrapped up the set with a gleefully ferocious, bouncy version of the Bush-era The War Is Over, followed by a pensive, Velvets-flavored anthem and then another new one that brought the garage-psych intensity all the way up with the two drummers going full steam.

Russo got the two drummers, JD Wood on bass, plus Piper, plus Megna on keyboards, plus Lenny Molotov on lead guitar and lapsteel. Resolute and velvety, she sang over the mini-orchestra behind her with a visceral sense of triumph. The album took longer to finish than anyone anticipated, but it was worth it and Russo drove that point home, opening with an especially amped version of Invisible. Speaking for every alienated individualist in the room, she grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat: “I am, I am invisible/I feel, I feel invincible.” With the three guitars going, The Invitation was exuberantly Beatlesque; the self-explanatory Alienation was another launching pad for some volcanic noiserock from Piper. Molotov’s falcon swoops on lapsteel added a menacing edge to the gorgeous, somewhat wistful Get Me Over, while Megna’s swirling keys gave the blistering kiss-off song Venus on Saturn a hypnotic ambience. Piper switched to harmonium for a fast, unusually short version of the Doorsy Restless Raga, Molotov’s solar flares bursting out of the murky mantra pulse. After a couple more hypnotically pounding numbers, she closed the show with the defiant Head High – Patti Smith as backed by Led Zep, maybe – and a counterintuitive choice, Swallow, a study in survival in the midst of being hit from all sides. It took some nerve to close on a down note with that one, and it worked.

And a shout out to Sergio Paterno, who earlier in the evening was playing gypsy and flamenco-flavored instrumentals on his guitar by tapping on the frets, using a lot of piano voicings, on the L train platform at 14th Street. It would have been fun to have heard more of what he was doing before the Mercury show.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hoodless Put Their Original Stamp on Classic Metal

Jersey City rockers Hoodless pride themselves that they can replicate 99% of their new album Music for Jerks live, and a lot of it actually sounds like it could be live in the studio. If you like metal but can’t stand the tunelessness and unoriginality of all the post-grunge corporate metal acts of the last ten years, Hoodless are for you. The one band they evoke, again and again, if from a distance, are Van Halen, but without the over-the-top ridiculousness (just imagine how awesome VH would have been if, say, Mark Anthony, or anybody BUT David Lee or Sammy was the singer…). Some of the songs here follow the grunge formula of quiet verse/loud chorus, but they’re not grunge – the vocals aren’t slurred or stupid and the twin guitars of Paul Allan and Finn are definitely metal, dry 80s style Charvel-through-a-Peavey grit. Most of the songs are short (three or four minutes, tops) and riff-oriented: there isn’t a lot of soloing, but when they cut loose the playing is choice.

The first cut, Touch and Cry is simple and characteristically catchy: it goes doublespeed after the verses are over, Van Halen meets Pantera without buffoonery of either one. Waiting and then Innocent do the soft/loud contrast effectively, the first with repeater-pedal guitar, the second with an eerie, echoey PiL vibe on the verse. Down, a darkly majestic 6/8 ballad, follows the same pattern, with echoes of Black Angel by the Cult. GAPO, whatever that stands for, has a spacious, early 70s style stoner metal feel, with a memorable descending progression, a trick ending and solid bootkick Bill Ward style drums. The sixth track, Say It Loud juxtaposes thrash with new wave, hair metal as done by Anthrax, maybe, and finally a nice NWOBHM blues-tinged solo. Run Away works a catchy twin guitar chorus hook, some tasty chromatic riffage and something about how “the cannibal masses can’t run away.” Be My Whore is memorably abrasive and as funny as you would think, with “my fingers down your throat.” ?!?!? Underground reaches for a majestic, rhythmically tricky British metal majesty and nails it in four minutes or less; the concluding track, Why So Serious runs variations on a classic Led Zep style hook. Make the sign of the horns and raise your lighter.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debra from Devi’s Top 10 Guitar Albums

This falls into the “ask an expert” category. Debra, who plays lead guitar and fronts the ferocious, psychedelic power trio Devi (whose excellent debut cd you can get at itunes and in stores) knows a thing or two about guitar – she’s one of the most uniquely individual, virtuosic stylists of this era. Here are the ten albums that really hook her up:   

 

Key to the Highway, Freddy King – Best phrasing in the blues and so tuff and sexy it makes me want to dance on a table in hot pants for Mr. King. I snuck a lick from “Hideaway” into Devi’s jam version of “The Needle and the Damage Done.” (You can hear it at 3:43).

 

Another Perfect Day, Motorhead – I moved into a grungy cat-stank apartment on Avenue B one December and by Christmas Eve I couldn’t breathe. Found myself in Bellevue sucking adrenalin from a tank to open my lungs and was told I’d die if I tried to spend another night in my apartment. The only friend I knew who didn’t have a freaking cat was bassist Nick Marden. He had a bird, a rat, a pitbull and a snake. Slept under the Christmas tree in the living room and awoke to Nick handing me this album, saying “Merry Christmas.” Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson was kicked out of Motorhead after the tour for Another Perfect Day for wearing leg warmers and being generally fey, but I was hooked from the opening note on his soaring, searing, gorgeous playing. Thanks Nick.

 

That’s Entertainment, Gang of Four – Every once in awhile a guitarist comes along who is so original, he makes everyone else sound boring and dated and stupid. Andy Gill’s playing is utterly fresh, sharp, and compulsively danceable. I saw Gang of Four play and all I remember is flying into a state of spasmodic ecstasy from the Gill’s first slashing rip across the strings.

 

Filth Pig, Ministry – God, I love this record. I’ve been known to put it on repeat and listen to it for 8 hours in a row. The guitars sound like thunder, like earthquakes, like tsunamis. One of my fave moments ever was meeting Al Jourgensen and having his wife Angie ask him, “Guess which Ministry album Deb likes the best?” and me and Al both hollering at the same time “FILTH PIIIIIIIIG!!”

 

Dreamboat Annie, Heart — Nancy Wilson’s acoustic guitar playing is exquisitely feminine and also every bit as rock as the Celtic touches Jimmy Page was giving Zeppelin. Otherwordly and heartbreakingly beautiful. Need to cry your way through a breakup? This is the album.

 

Country Life, Roxy Music — Phil Manzanera’s romantic passionate solos slay me. When he lets that delay fly, it sounds like flocks of magical sparkling geese heading straight to heaven. Saw Roxy Music at Radio City Music Hall. Cried. Sighed. Swooned.

 

Texas Flood, Steve Ray Vaughan – Hands that could crush a Volkswagen. His best solos are on this album and they are bursts of fire. I learned his solo on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and I use what I learned all the time. Snuck a few variations on the licks from that solo into mine on “C21H23NO3”.

 

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols – Guitars like a punch in the face. Steve Jones set the standard for the tightest, most powerful playing on the tightest, most powerful punk rock record ever. Taught the rest of us how to triple track separate parts for maximum wallop. It still makes me want to throw furniture and slamdance as hard as it did the first time I heard it.

 

Ritual de lo Habitual, Jane’s Addiction – Dave Navarro’s solo on “Three Days” is a rippling, cascading masterpiece. He took what Daniel Ash was doing in Bauhaus with digital delay and mixed it up with Jimmy Page and superscorchers like Nuno Bettencourt to create a new style that everyone’s been ripping off every since.

 

Santana, Santana – Jimmy Page said “tone is in the fingers” and Carlos Santana’s fingers make the guitar sound like a celestial viola. His gorgeous sense of melody is like nobody else’s either…he never gets stuck in a blues bag. Even just trying to play along with him for just a few minutes opens up entire new vistas.

 

 

Honorable Mention:

 

Everything by Led Zeppelin, everything by Pink Floyd

 

Pretenders, The Pretenders

 

Sweet Forgiveness, Bonnie Raitt

June 24, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wishful Thinking: Led Zeppelin Live on West Ninth St., NYC 11/26/07

[Editor’s note: we’re going to let this writer get away with this just this once]

The concept was beyond ludicrous: the world’s most popular heavy metal band (maybe the world’s most popular band, period) schedules their first New York show in almost thirty years outdoors, for free, on a side street in the West Village. No matter that it wasn’t advertised or announced to the public: I learned about it about four hours earlier from a friend, who got a phone call from a friend in the union who was setting up the sound equipment. One can only assume that a few more phone calls would be made, and in a few minutes’ time a flashmob the size of several ocean liners would clog the westside streets, requiring a police presence sufficiently gargantuan to protect the band and the lucky few who made it inside the “security zone” hours before the band went on. Which is why I didn’t cancel my two scheduled afternoon appointments: after all, I had no expectation that I’d get to see the show. Or that it would happen at all. Altamont, by comparison, was a brilliant idea.

But curiosity got the best of me, and a few minutes after the 4 PM scheduled start time, I decided to get off the train a couple of stops away from where I was going so I could scope out the neighborhood, just for the hell of it. When I exited the subway, the sky was dark and ominous. It had been cold all day, and threatening rain. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising to see the streets pretty much empty of pedestrians. There was also absolutely no police presence. Or any sign, audible or otherwise, that anything was happening. I kept walking, and suddenly I began to hear music in the distance. It was the bassline to Kashmir. Could this be true? I was loaded down with gear but I must have started running. I don’t remember. I was in a dream state. When I reached the end of the block, there on the sidewalk, playing through their amps (Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones had huge 4X12 cabinets) was Led Zeppelin. The only thing going through the PA was Robert Plant’s vocals, amplified by a couple of medium-sized JBL speakers, like the kind you see at street fairs. For a band whose reputation was built on volume and grand gestures, they sure were quiet, especially considering the size of the amps they were using. But the most unbelievable thing about this was that it was happening at all. There wasn’t a cop in sight, nor was there any kind of canopy over the band, who were facing possible electrocution in the event that the rains finally came. By my count, there were about 200 people assembled, a mix of old hippies and working-class metalheads all watching silently and reverently from a distance, even though anyone could have gone right up to the mic and ripped it from Plant’s hand if they so desired: there were no barriers or bouncers. The band didn’t even have a stage to play on: the sound mixer was perched on a stoop behind them. Was it possible that not a single person who knew about this spilled the beans to anyone who would have then IM’d their entire address book in seconds flat? Or was everyone here on the same page as I was? After all, I didn’t tell anybody about this because I had no plans to be here in the first place. And what about all the people in the surrounding buildings? Maybe they heard the low volume and assumed that it was just a Zep cover band practicing. After all, it was all but impossible to hear anything but the bass just a couple of blocks away, and the songs they were playing were all pretty iconic: most musicians know how to play them, at least the central hooks.

After Kashmir, the rest of the band sat out while Jimmy Page played Tangerine, solo. He did it thoughtfully but deliberately, without hardly any of the ostentatious vibrato that is his trademark. This was Page’s show, a clinic in dynamics. He didn’t cut loose too much, so when he did, the effect was spine-tingling. His guitar had three necks, looking like a prop straight out of Spinal Tap: one with six strings, one with twelve, and one with bass strings (which he never used). Jones is still a groovemeister, and had a clavinet to his right that he played on Stairway to Heaven. Plant’s voice is shot: his upper register is completely gone, but that’s a blessing in disguise, since he can’t overemote anymore. He just stuck to the melodies, using what little range he has left, and in a sense he’s never sounded better. The new drummer played a simple seven-piece kit: kick, snare, a couple of toms, ride and crash cymbals and hi-hat. He wasn’t amplified, so when the music got loud, it was impossible to hear him. He didn’t even try to do any of the complicated double-bass stuff Bonham used to do, although it was clear that he was a good timekeeper and seemed to be locked with Jones when the two were both audible.

After Tangerine, they picked up the pace with The Ocean, then followed with some of the more obscure tracks from Physical Graffiti. Since I’d gotten there late, I missed what could have been the first two or three songs, which conceivably could have been big radio hits like Whole Lotta Love. They closed, predictably, with Stairway to Heaven. When they got to the big guitar break, Jones, who still had his bass hanging around his shoulders, left the keyboard and jammed with Page. At the end, they brought it down to just the vocals and the clavinet. The crowd was completely silent for a second or two, then breaking out into polite applause. Not what you’d expect at a heavy metal show.

“Go ahead and put some money in the tip bucket,” Page growled at the crowd, motioning to a big green bucket to his left that looked like it had held flowers and sod until a few minutes previously. “Or buy us some beer.” As if on cue, at least a couple dozen audience members made a beeline for the deli on the corner. Meanwhile, I was trying to recapture the whole experience, wondering how I could relate here what I’d just experienced, if I could remotely do justice to such an exhilarating, completely unexpected performance. Sadly, I never got the chance to figure that out, because that’s when I woke up. This, then, is the best I can do. Now before you get all worked up and upset at me for writing this piece, just think for a minute about how depressing it was for me to return to a waking state from a dream like this.

November 28, 2007 Posted by | Conspiracy, Music, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review: The Gotham 4 at Club Midway, NYC 7/31/07

You have to wonder why these guys do it. Is it the money? They brought a good crowd, but let’s face it, if everybody in the band got to bring home fifty bucks apiece they would have been lucky.

Is it the fame? Hardly. Everybody in this loud, nebulously 90s, two-guitar unit has been around the block a few times, and as we all know, you don’t get signed to a record label these days unless your parents arrange for it, or you’re college-age and cute. These guys’ frontman was once in a band with one of the Psychedelic Furs that came thisclose to getting signed; the bass player is a ubiquitous type who had the good sense to catch on with a couple of other acts (Randi Russo and Erica Smith, to be specific) who seem to be right on the verge. Otherwise, the Gotham 4 are barely distinguishable from the literally hundreds of acts playing this town in any given week.

Maybe it’s that they’re clearly having fun, at least that’s how it seemed tonight. Their lead singer/lead guitarist has become something of a belter lately, and it served him well, giving the songs a welcome edge. The bass player was bobbing and weaving around a corner of the stage in Spinal Tap mode, the rhythm player delivering a steady blast of chordal fury, the drummer having fun throwing in some neat rolls and fills to keep everyone on their toes. And the audience loved it. They opened with a brief number that pretty much encapsulates what they do, totally early 90s anthemic Britrock with more than a nod and a wink to Led Zeppelin, especially where the solos are concerned. But they’re far more melodic than, say, the Verve or Ride or early Radiohead, more like Oasis without all the stolen Beatles licks.

The high point of the night was a long, flamenco-colored number called 3001, building from a White Rabbit-style, staccato verse to an explosive chorus, to a long solo where the lead player got to stretch out while the bass player did his best John Paul Jones imitation. Later songs gave off echoes of U2, the Furs (big surprise), the Who circa Who’s Next and (sorry, guys) Oasis in their prime. Their lone cover was an attempt to rock out the Stones country classic Dead Flowers. One can only wonder how many other unsung bands tonight gave it their all and received as warm a response from such an unlikely large, enthusiastic crowd.

August 1, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment