Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Somebodies’ Christmas Show 12/16/09

You know a band has to be good if they can keep a smart crowd entertained with a bunch of Christmas songs. Let’s face it – Christmas music sucks, bigtime. Almost as much as Nickelback or Lady Gag. In fact, the only holiday music that’s any good is the non-Western stuff: Diwali, Passover, Ramadan. And of course Halloween. But the Somebodies – with a lot of help from some good friends – had obviously really worked hard on putting together a theme night that in a lesser group’s hands would have been pure schlock.

The band’s sound is concretized sometime in the 80s: their faster stuff has a scurrying new wave beat; the anthems look back to a time before grunge, before hair metal, in fact, when you were supposed to sing them casually, unaffectedly, without any cliches. But they didn’t play any of those. Usually the bass carries the melody, as Graham Maby used to do on Joe Jackson’s early albums. Their three originals in their set list at Lakeside on the sixteenth included a brisk, punchy pop number that would have made a good b-side to What I Like About You, another with a propulsive, melodic reggae bassline that went doublespeed on the chorus, and the last song of the night, where bassist Luke Mitchell got  to go deep into his bag of chops for some slinky slides, hammer-ons and fat, boomy chords. And these were all well-received, but it was the holiday stuff that made smiles out of winces.

They started with the Eric Carmen weepie (and Rachmaninoff ripoff) All By Myself, just Mitchell and drummer Phil McDonald who gave it the most deviously deadpan vocal you could want. Then frontman/guitarist Pete Derba joined them for Feliz Navidad, which in his hands was basically the same lyric over and over again. That was mercifully over fast. Dylan Keeler of the Disclaimers took a reluctantly amusing turn as Elvis impersonator on Santa’s Back in Town; later, Derba did Blue Christmas back into deadpan territory with some help from a ringer chorus on backup vocals. Kate Thomason and Naa Koshie Mills – the duo who give the Disclaimers their signature soul sound – did a lighthearted rap number, and later a Christmas soul song from the 60s. For her absolutely sultry cover of Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby, Mills peeled off her shiny fake fur coat to reveal an equally shiny 60s cocktail dress and then brought down the house.

Keeler and his fellow Disclaimers guitarist Dan Sullivan gave Santa Claus Is Coming to Town a sublimely ridiculous Blues Brothers vibe, Sullivan doing most of the jumping and kicking around in front of the stage: “He knows when you forget the lyrics,” he deadpanned. But the most affecting moment of the night was when Jerome and Susan O’Brien of the Dog Show led the crowd in an acoustic singalong of So This Is Christmas. “War is over, if you want it…” If only this year’s Nobel winner could have been there, he undoubedly would have a good time, notwithstanding this timely reminder of how little has actually changed since that auspicious day in November of last year.

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December 23, 2009 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Disclaimers at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 2/6/09

Supposedly it’s a big blogosphere faux pas to review too many shows by one band because it smacks of fandom. Well, dammit, we ARE fans of the Disclaimers. They’re one of those killer bands whose songs are so catchy and so intelligent, and who put on such an intense live show that everybody wonders why they’re not famous. Woops, that’s 80s thinking: it’s been a long time since a major label signed a good band (last time we said that about a band, their independently produced cd got a great distribution deal – here’s hoping lightning strikes twice). This band has everything: tunes, tight musicianship and two charismatic frontwomen in Naa Koshie Mills and Kate Thomason. Thomason set the place on fire last time out; last night was Mills’ turn to steal the spotlight, immaculate in a two-tone black-and-white pencil dress and coordinated stockings (black on the left, white on the right), in addition to a real flower hair accessory to match her co-lead singer and also a big ostrich feather. She also sang and played violin, trombone and keyboards, a pretty good average for somebody who was so under the weather that she had to go off mic and clear her throat when she wasn’t crooning in that effortlessly breathy style of hers.

 

The rest of the band kicked ass too. Keyboardist/guitarist Dan Sullivan didn’t have his Leslie pedal with him, but he still wailed when it came time for his solo in the best song of the night, the scorching, sarcastic janglerock anthem Tiptoe. They’ve rearranged a lot of their songs lately:  Below the Belly of the 7 Train, their opener, now has a macabre organ intro from Sullivan, and a lot of dynamics – they don’t just barrel through it anymore. They did another one that had a beautiful Elvis Costello keyboard pop ballad feel, another equally gorgeous new jangly garage rock song called The Damage Is Done and even a Springsteen cover, a stunningly successful version of No Surrender. When Thomason sang “No retreat, baby, no surrender,” it was as much cajolement as defiance: disbelief was simply not an option. They closed with a typically fiery, snidely powerful version of their usual closer, Get Out of My Nightmares, fueled by Mills’ usual frenetic staccato violin crescendo at the beginning and then at the end. The place wasn’t as jampacked as it was last time they played here but there was a decent crowd, the sound was pristine as always and the crowd was into it. And maybe because of the depression or the cold night, Bedford Avenue was pretty much clear of trendoids and tourists. A sign of things to come? Let’s hope so.

February 7, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment