Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Rev. Vince Anderson’s Last Show at Black Betty, Brooklyn NY 6/15/09

There’s a downside to running a live music blog: if the concept is to cover as much ground as as possible, to spread the word about as many scenes as there are in New York, there isn’t much time left to see old favorites. After all, nobody wants to read about the same old people over and over again. But this show was special. Rev. Vince Anderson has gotten a lot of space here by virtue of the ecstatic quality of his live shows, and this one was especially high-voltage since Black Betty, the Middle Eastern restaurant/bar where he and his band the Love Choir have played a Monday night residency since 2004 (and for awhile back in the early zeros too) is closing. Tonight was supposedly the closing party and the vibe was electric, a lot of love in the room. Anderson has always drawn a remarkably diverse crowd, a lot of segments that usually don’t mix (the trendoid exiting in a huff because the bar wouldn’t take his parents’ credit card, a bunch of blue-collar neighborhood folks, Europeans, Middle Easterners and college kids). It was impossible to get into the inner room. When Anderson moves to Union Pool next Monday, it’ll be a step up because that space is considerably larger and the PA is a lot more powerful, more headroom for him to literally take his already energetic show to another level.

It was hard to imagine him working any harder or more exaltedly than he did tonight, opening with a swinging version of the Tom Waits-inflected free beer bar tale Sweet Redemption – from his second album The 13th Apostle – a heartfelt dedication to Black Betty. Playing every week, sometimes more than that has made this band incredibly tight, with a rare chemistry between band members. The rhythm section does double duty in slinky, sly groove/funk/soul band Chin Chin; trombonist Dave Smith is a blues purist in this band but also an innovative composer in his own jazz project, The Perfect Man; likewise, baritone sax player Paula Henderson leads the uniquely devious low-register band Moisturizer and does her own cinematic solo project Secretary. You’d never know from Jaleel Bunton’s energetically psychedelic guitar that he’s also the drummer in TV on the Radio. Anderson himself has evolved from eerily Balkan-inflected barrelhouse pianist to one of this era’s most successfully groove-oriented funk/soul keyboardists.

Deep in the Water, from Anderson’s most recent album 100% Jesus was especially moist and fluid, as was a cover of Amazing Grace, reinvented as a minor-key, House of the Rising Sun-style blues featuring what could have been Bunton’s best-ever solo in this band, a wrenchingly beautiful excursion that started out somberly emphatic with his wah pedal, finally blowing wide open with some searing upper-register work. The version of Anderson’s Get Out of My Way was especially amped, but the best song of the first set was a surprise cover of Springsteen’s Atlantic City, Anderson reinventing the hitman’s coldly disingenuous narrative as redemption song. “Everybody dies, that’s a fact, but maybe someday, everything comes back” – in Anderson’s world, this is a possibility. By the time he led the band through the stomping funk of Come to the River, the cops had arrived, the club finally closed the back door – which had been open for the first hour of the show since there was no room inside – and for anyone who wasn’t already in there, it was impossible to hear. No doubt the festivities after that were equally or more intense. Anderson’s next show is June 22 at 11 PM at Union Pool.

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June 16, 2009 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: 18 at Union Pool, Brooklyn NY 8/24/07

The place used to be a pool dealership. Not real pools, but the glorified hot tubs you can see from the air out behind seemingly every single-family home in Queens as you land at LaGuardia. From the looks of it, total market saturation put an end to the original Union Pool. In the same lazy vein as Pete’s Candy Store and Arlene Grocery, when the new owners took over the spot, they kept the name. It was rockabilly central for awhile back in the 90s, the curb outside typically lined with life-size Hot Wheels vehicles, antique Fords and Hudsons from the 40s and 50s chopped and customized to the point where their book value was a tiny fraction of it would have been had the cars been restored or even left in their original junk condition. Now the place is more like Jersey central – or central Jersey. At least that’s how it was at the bar tonight, a bunch of fresh-faced yuppie puppies dancing awkwardly to hip-hop. But out back in the music building, it was like the old days, a decidedly mixed crowd: totally Williamsburg, 1997. We missed the tight, Stonesy cover band the Blue Mountain Dogs and janglerockers Swagg. Guitar/drums instrumental duo Cocaine & Abel were already into their set when we got there, playing what you might call sludgecore, slow, pounding drums and screeching, overtone-laden, nails-down-the-blackboard guitar. When they sped it up lickety-split to 200 BPM, it was just silly, but the downtempo stuff was pretty cool. As more than one audience member said in the courtyard outside, more people would have stuck around had they not been so excruciatingly loud. The room here isn’t tiny like Barbes – it has nice high ceilings and a little balcony in the back – but there’s absolutely no need to lug in a huge Marshall stack like Cocaine (or was it Abel) did. But maybe that’s the whole point of the band.

18 headlined, playing their cd release show, and brought a big crowd. The first thing you noticed about this band is that people were dancing, and in this part of town, that’s frowned upon, as if the Pentecostals had taken over. The next thing that was obvious is that most everybody was pretty drunk. Memo to club owners: this band brings a big drinking crowd. Union Pool just paid next month’s rent with what they made at the bar tonight. Another striking thing is how tight the band was: like a lot of classic punk bands, they’d finish a song and then jump right into another, often without even stopping. Bits and pieces of familiar tunes floated to the surface of their sonic tsunami: TV Eye, Should I Stay or Should I Go, Pretty Vacant, Blitzkrieg Bop. This Williamsburg quartet use the same basic riff-rock building blocks as a million other garage/punk bands before them but then smash them to pieces with uncommon ferocity and skill. 18 is a very democratic band: everybody sings, including the drummer (who happens to be their best singer). They also don’t take themselves seriously at all: “Drank so much I almost drowned,” the bass player deadpanned during his first number. In 18’s world, everything’s either a party or a joke and that’s perfectly ok because we need bands who A) bring the party with them and B) know the difference between telling a joke and being one.

Their best songs were a twisted portrait of a Hells Kitchen character, sung by the drummer; an amusing faux-country song about a “milk-fed girl from out of town” who really loves to eat, at everybody else’s expense, and a snide garage tune called Squaresville, which as the Telecaster player made clear at the end of the song was a Williamsburg reference. They played a long set: wham, wham, wham, one song after another with barely room in between for anyone in the band to even take a hit of beer. Like some of the other bands in our most recent review, they would have fit in perfectly at CBGB, 1981. That’s a compliment. We went to legendary, now vastly overpriced neighborhood greasepit Kellogg’s Diner around the corner afterward for onion rings. If that’s not rock n roll, you tell me what is.

August 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments