Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Rasputina at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY 10/31/07

Legend is that back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, bands like this would sell out football and soccer stadiums around the world. Every year, a new generation of schoolkids would discover them, leaving their song lyrics on their desks as graffiti for their friends to respond to in kind. All of these bands became impossibly rich and famous, with many of their songs becoming part of the cultural landscape. While that era may be gone forever, it is safe to say for every year that the world manages to survive, a new generation will discover Rasputina. The ultimate Halloween band reminded yet again what an incredible live act they are, with a deep back catalog of songs to match. Tonight they treated an unusually diverse crowd – a mix of goth kids and nondescript couples in their twenties and thirties, with not a trendoid to be seen anywhere – to a riveting set of mostly more recent material.

They opened with an apt, deapan cover of All Tomorrow’s Parties, following that with the tongue-in-cheek, slightly Bollywood-inflected Thimble Island and a stomping, completely rearranged version of their early audience hit Transylvanian Concubine. Frontwoman/cellist Melora Creager introduced the song with a joke about Hitler telling his shrink that he ejaculates during his strident speeches. The punchline that the shrink ostensibly responded with wasn’t audible: while the sound here is much improved since the former Northsix space was taken over by the folks who own Bowery Ballroom and the Mercury, it wasn’t always easy to make out what Creager was saying, and that’s too bad, because she’s one of the funniest people in rock. And this show rocked. They followed that with a new one, possibly titled Antique High-Heeled Red-Soled Shoes, and the uncharacteristically pretty pop song Fox in the Snow, the hungry animal personifying someone looking to get laid. For the last couple of years, Creager has streamlined the band’s live lineup down to just herself, another cellist who dazzled with her screechy monster-movie fills, soaring flights up the scale and spot-on harmony vocals, and a drummer who also dazzled with his imagination, musicality and ability to turn on a dime and follow Creager when she’d stop a lyric cold to say something funny to the audience.

Rasputina’s longest-running joke is that they were formed sometime in the 1800s. Creager has long had a fascination with bizarre historical events, and tonight they treated the crowd to the characteristically haunting global warming cautionary tale 1816 the Year Without a Summer, from the band’s latest and best album, Oh Perilous World, along with another, quieter, creepier cut, Oh Bring Back the Egg Unbroken. But these songs, in addition to the 9/11 trilogy from the new album that they ended their set with, carry a lot more weight than their earlier, more playful material. Creager is still a master of the clever double entendre and the off-the-wall cultural or historical reference, but the new material packs a potent, politically charged wallop. The audience roared their approval when Creager told them that the trilogy was written based on the conclusion that the Bush regime engineered 9/11. “But that’s old news,” she sighed after the applause had finally subsided.

They closed the show with some older concert staples: the ridiculously catchy, almost heavy metal, completely off-the-wall Saline the Salt Lake Queen; a scorching, distortion-laden version of the riff-rocking Trenchmouth, from their second album, and the sly, innuendo-filled old 1930s pop/swing hit If Your Kisses Won’t Hold the Man You Love. With all the great symphonic rock bands from the pleistocene era now either fossilized or playing exclusively to the hedge fund set for hundreds of dollars a ticket, it’s reassuring to see Rasputina pick up the torch, sounding better than ever. Who knew: a dozen years ago, when they first started, conventional wisdom was that they were a novelty act, three cello-weilding women dressed in Victorian underwear. Some novelty, seven great albums and five ep’s later.

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November 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments