Since I'm slacking so much on blogging lately, I figured I'd cram three recent concert reviews into one post. Yes, it's been a while since the last time it happened, but I went to 3 concerts in a week last week. Okay, technically 3 concerts in 8 days, but that's still pretty good.
First up was St. Vincent last Sunday at Metro. St. Vincent, like Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins, is basically a one-man band (or woman in this case), with Annie Clark being the main member. She's a former member of the giant Polyphonic Spree band, but that is true of roughly 20 other people as well, so that isn't what makes her stand out.
I first saw her open for the National at their show in Chicago following the release of their brilliant album "Boxer." She really impressed me then, she performed solo with some prerecorded and looping stuff, but was pretty impressive with what she could pull off live. This time around, in support of her newest album "Actor," she was touring with a full band in tow, which detracted in some ways from her original impressive performance, but filled out her sound and allowed her to be more creative.
The show was opened by the Philadelphia band Pattern Is Movement. The band was amusing since they looked about as much like rock musicians as the fat guy sitting in that cube next to you at work. However, they managed to mesmerize the crowd with their complex rhythm, using only a drum set and keyboard to keep the crowd silent and entranced for a good half hour.
St. Vincent took the stage shortly after that, performing as a five piece, including band members switching between woodwinds, guitars and keyboars as the songs needed. Clark is still great as the center of the band, as her lulling guitar strumming would give way to outbursts of strangled guitar and would settle back down again with little warning.
Side note: I'd tell you what songs I enjoyed the most that she did, but I can't because I haven't bougth any of her cd's yet, since they are very difficult to find and can't be found for less than $15, so that breaks my no-cd-over-$10 rule.
St. Vincent's set was very enjoyable though. Clark says that with her latest album, she watched a bunch of the old Disney cartoons like Sleeping Beauty and imagined rewriting the soundtracks. You can tell this in her new songs, as they moved from lulling harmonies to sharply contrasting jagged passages and back again. She is definitely an artist to watch to see how she will grow and mature from here.
Friday night brought a very different set from British punks Art Brut at Schuba's. The band, touring on their recently released (and awesomely named) "Art Brut vs. Satan," wrapped up a 5 night stand at Schuba's that night, having played a different set each night of the week. Their main member, singer Eddie Argos, is known for writing hillarious lyrics and basically talk/singing them. He also embraces the "anyone can do it" spirit of punk, which he wholeheartedly encourages his audience to do every time he plays.
The show was opened by a new California band called Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. No, sadly, it's not THAT Dusty Rhodes, it's instead some younger dude with an affinity for giant afros. Sorry, but the Mars Volta are the masters of that. DR's set was pretty bland, tried to blur some genre lines (70's rock, country, whatever else), but didn't do much either way. They are perfect for a summer street fest band (which they ended up playing the next day in Chicago), since you could easilly ignore them and move on to the next thing.
Art Brut took the stage and didn't waste any time as always. You can always tell the band is having a great time, and Friday night was no exception. They played a good chunk of songs from the newest album ("Alcoholics Unanimous," "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes"), while sprinkling in a few classics from their debut "Bang Bang Rock & Roll," including the classic "Emily Kane."
The band fittingly threw in a cover of the Ramone's "the KKK Took My Baby Away" as one of their encores, and was jovial and chatted and joked with the crowd throughout the night. It's pretty sad that most people still have no idea who this band is yet, but then again, as Argos sings in "Demons Out!", "the record buying public shouldn't be voting!" Art Brut will be back in Chicago later this summer at the Green Festival in August, definitely do not miss them.
Last up was Metric at the Metro last night. Metric is a Canadian dance/rock band fronted by the lovely Emily Haines, whose newest cd "Fantasies" is already a stand-out for one of the best of 2009.
There were two openers last night, Smile Smile and Sebastien Grainger. Smile Smile is a duo who played guitar and piano, with some pre-recorded drum loops helping them out. They came off well, their harmonies were pretty good and they seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. They were only on for about 20 minutes, so they didn't get much time to impress, but they did well with what they had.
Next came Sebastien Grainger and the Mountain. Grainger was half of the duo Death From Above 1979, who were poised to become a big breakthrough band, but instead broke up in 2006. Grainger, who played drums in DFA1979, has moved out from the kit and is now playing guitar and singing in his new group. His new stuff is much more dance rock than the sludgy stomp of DFA, and it fit in well with the sound of Metric. For some reason though, the crowd did not seem to connect to Grainger, despite his pleas to get them dancing and to loosen up.
After a brief wait, Metric came out to a welcoming crowd. The band kept its focus on this year's great cd "Fantasies," playing all but one or two of the songs from it. Most of the songs translated very well live, losing some of the dance grooves here and there, but it was not a problem. Emily Haines is an excellent lead singer, she reminded me alot of Shirley Manson from the early days of Garbage, as she would stalk around the stage, make plenty of eye contact with the crowd, and just generally looked like she was having a really good time and wanted to be there.
They did throw in a few older songs to make their old loyal fans happy, but they showed with the set that they are firmly set in the present and are even ready to look more to the future. Their closer "Stadium Love" was epic, and a great sign of where they could go from here.
It was a very good week of concerts overall, 3 for 3 ain't bad. We're taking Bella to her first concert of the year this weekend at the Taste of Randolph Street to see Urge Overkill and Tinted Windows. We'll see if the streak keeps up.