If it’s Tuesday it must be another concert at The Sinclair in Harvard Square (best venue in the Boston area). This time it was Angel Olsen whose stagecraft has come on in leaps and bounds since I last saw her two years ago. Her six-piece band were all in sharp suits, the lighting was dramatic and thought-out, and Angel herself seemed more like a genuine rock star than the simple girl-with-guitar she was before.
Not only were the band dapper but they were a crack unit, especially on the rockin’ numbers where having three guitars gave them real power. They played an absolutely ferocious version of “Shut Up Kiss Me” that was one of the best performances of a song I’ve heard in years. Add that extraordinary voice of hers on top and you’ve got quite the live powerhouse.
My only gripe was being a little frustrated by the pacing of the show. She started and finished with uptempo numbers and in between was a lot of ballads. Not that these weren’t great but so many in a row can be a drag and leave your feet itching for something to tap to. Storming rockers like “High Five” gave the crowd such a buzz I was dying for her to play another one, especially as she has a band that can really tear the roof off. But any misgivings I had were blown away by the encore, a stunning one-two punch of “Intern” and “Woman” with Angel playing synth against moody lighting, and the band building to an intense crescendo which the ended the show on a massive high.
As you can see from the terrible photo up top I didn’t have a great view (the place was packed) so I didn’t shoot any video again. This is from a few nights before in New York. Heart-stopping stuff.
I went to see Sleigh Bells for the first time last week. I knew it would be an intense and VERY LOUD affair so I planned to enjoy the show from a distance, well away from what I imagined would be a mad crush at the front churned up by their eardrum-battering guitars and sledgehammer beats. As they say in the movies, I’m too old for that shit.
That was the plan anyway. Instead I found myself drawn to the front by the sonic and physical energy of the band which sucked me in like a vortex. The main generator of that energy was dynamo lead singer Alexis Krauss who threw herself around the stage like a possessed doll and was one of the best I’ve ever seen at getting an audience revved up and involved in the performance. Cooly observing from the back wasn’t an option and I happily joined the mass of sweaty bodies rocking their socks off near the front.
Sleigh Bells don’t really pace their show, they start at 100mph and keep the pedal floored the whole way, with guitars dive-bombing and programmed drum beats punching through walls. Add to the mix the disorientating strobe light they use and it’s quite the sensory experience, like being hit by waves of white noise and light. Hard to pick a highlight when it was all so much of a singular assault, but I did have a good fist-pump to “Minnie” and enjoyed Alexis crowd-surfing to “Crown On The Ground.”
I thought I would come out of the gig feeling old, but instead I felt invigorated. My ears were ringing for days and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
As usual I was enjoying the show too much to shoot any video myself so here’s a clip from a few nights previous in New York.
I wonder if bands like The Knack are sick to death of their big hit and wish people would play one of their other songs for a change. Or are they just grateful for the money it probably still brings them?
This was their only hit in the UK and they were derided by the rock press as retro rockers cynically jumping on the “New Wave” bandwagon by putting on skinny ties. That may or not have been true but this was a cracking single and this is a great performance of it.
I saw Wolf Alice again last week, that’s the second time this year. Don’t think I’ve seen the same band twice in one year since my early 20s, next I’ll be putting their posters on my bedroom wall and taping their live sessions off the radio. The kids still do that, right?
In the five months since the previous gig the London foursome have put out an album and done a shitload of touring, and as a result seem to be gaining an audience here in the States. Back in March I saw them in a small room in front of about 100 people, but this time the space was bigger and packed with, I guess, about 500 punters — not exactly a football stadium crowd but the vibe was very different too. Instead of merely curious onlookers, most of the crowd seemed to be partisan fans judging by the way they cheered and sang along to the songs. Nice to see that the band’s old-fashioned graft is paying off – as long as they don’t get too big, I don’t actually want to see them in a football stadium.
Having a bigger, enthusiastic crowd really helped the performance and they were even better than the first time. Good though they are at more gentle songs like “Swallowtail” (which they played live for the first time in the States), it’s on big riff monsters like “You’re A Germ” that they can really blow the roof off. If I was the sort of person who used the word “rock” as a verb I would do so. I left with the kind of happily satisfied buzz you only get from booze, sex, and great concerts.
Here’s some dodgy-quality video what I shot myself. I don’t think Jonathan Demme has anything to worry about.