Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Randi Russo Live at Cake Shop 5/19/07

Sometimes life kicks you. Last night Randi Russo and her band kicked back, hard. She and tw0-thirds of her backing unit hit the stage around 5:30, early, playing on a bill with literally dozens of other acts from the loosely organized New York City collective known as Olive Juice Music. Russo’s drummer was AWOL: stuck in traffic, the audience would learn later. The bass player was clearly hungover. As the band was setting up, the multi-talented Nan Turner (of Schwervon, who were scheduled to play later in the evening) passed by the stage: Russo leaned over, and in a matter of seconds managed to corral her and install her behind the drum kit. Turner’s timekeeping is marvelously precise: you could set your watch to her and it would be accurate to a nanosecond. The band was visibly delighted to have her up there with them, as they launched into a dirty, blistering cover of the Slim Harpo blues Hip Shake (which the Stones covered very differently on Exile). At the end of the song, Russo took a rare solo, a screaming serics of macabre chords that evoked Joy Division circa Unknown Pleasures. Turner looked like she wanted to leave the stage, but the band wouldn’t let her, following with another stomping bluesy number, Release Me, and then a slowly undulating, groove-hugging take on Russo’s eerie, Middle Eastern-inflected dajyob-from-hell masterpiece Battle on the Periphery.

Just as Turner exited the stage, Russo’s regular drummer Dan Zachary rushed in through the audience, and in moments the band launched into a new song that saw Russo and lead guitarist Lenny Molotov trade off licks over a minimalist, midtempo punk rock beat. The song morphed into a hypnotic, stomping cauldron of noise about halfway through, the bassist playing a repetitive chromatic riff as a whirlwind of eerie overtones flew from the two guitars. It was obvious by now that the band was working completely without a set list: since Russo uses a lot of different guitar tunings, there was always a pause between songs. “Play something,” she told the bassist and he tried tackling the Mr. Softee ice cream truck theme without much success. He was having a rough time up there, his hand visibly cramping up during the long, ethereal, surprisingly optimistic Ceiling Fire.

But no matter: the band was on fire for the rest of the set, including the psychedelic, riff-driven Great Adventure, the wounded, bitter Hurt Me Now, the towering, majestic outsider anthem Prey and their final song, an impossibly catchy, backbeat-driven pop hit possibly titled Invisible (“I am, I am invisible/I feel, I feel invincible”).

The Wowz followed with a sprawling set of happy, shiny, shambling Simon and Garfunkel-esque acoustic pop, an obviously under-rehearsed choir of backup singers lined up behind the drums: it seems they’re going for something approximating a lighter side of the Arcade Fire.

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May 20, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment