October 28, 2012

The Weeknd played Terminal 5

For a man shrouded in mystery, Abel Tesfaye better known these days as The Weeknd, had no problem packing Terminal 5 to capacity to deliver a stunning set of material from three mixtapes that will see an actual release next month. Within a year, The Weeknd went from a small bedroom project to playing headlining slots at major music festivals. Tesfaye's smooth as silk vocals have been reportedly unimpressive live, but he was in top form for this sold out crowd. Playing all the hits "Wicked Games", "Lonely Star", "High For This" the audience was in the palm of his hand shouting along to every word.  Backed with a sensational live band, every note was perfect, it begs the question of how big could this project get if everyone stays on board. He's already had guest appearances from Drake and it seems inevitable that he will soon reach a level many never would have imagined. "Loft Music" and "The Party & The After Party" acted as nice shout-outs to Beach House and the overdose of Siouxsie and The Banshees' "Happy House" had people losing their minds and made me wonder how many people knew what they were screaming along with. The technicolor pulsating orbs added flash and the breakdown into the second half of "Glass Table Girls" sounded rich in trip-hop nostalgia (hell Portishead's epic Dummy was the house music before the guy took the stage). When Trilogy hits stores in November, it'll be interesting to see how much of a shift there is in the momentum of his career and just how much bigger he'll get. "The doctors told me to cancel these shows" Tesfaye told us at one point, but 3 sold out shows in New York City was just something he couldn't pass up. Thursday evening he even dropped a new track "Empty" "for the fans that can't make it" in NYC which features a nod to The Smith's "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want". He knows his music and isn't afraid to acknowledge his indie indulgences something the R&B genre is not necessarily known for doing. His first mixtape "House of Balloons" showcased his strongest song writing so far, but he could still be on the verge of his biggest and best work to date.

October 23, 2012

Titus Andronicus played Shea Stadium

"We put together the longest setlist of the band's career, so everyone get comfortable. We have about twelve more songs to go." That's not something a band typically announces shortly into their set. For the release of their third record, Local Business, New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus annihilated Shea Stadium with an almost two hour long set comprised of material from all three of their excellent records. Before heading out in support of the new album, the band played a final local sendoff to many friends and family in the intimate loft space and ripped through a stunning display of power-pop riffs, swelling choruses, and Replacement style break downs. Phenomenal transitions between songs are part of what makes Titus' albums so great and the live renditions only amplify the band's talent. "Ecce Homo" into "Still Life with Hot Deuce On Silver Platter" kicked off the evening and "Food Fight" into "My Eating Disorder" really riled things up. Patrick announced at one point that the band had to relearn a bunch of their older songs and they even debuted a brand new song that doesn't appear on their new album. "I Gotta Date Tonight" blended into "In A Big City" which was probably the best received new track and "(I am The) Electric Man" transitioned into a stomping cover of "Do You Love Me?". The expanded line-up allows for a triple guitar attack and gives their new material a richer sound and heightens any of their previous material. Naming their record Local Business exemplifies the communal nature of the band which is a vital aspect of how they operate. The band brought out drummer Eric Harm's father Steven to join in on harmonica for "Tried to Quit Smoking" as he does on the record and former guitarist Amy Klein got down in the pit. While the new tracks sounded great, part of what makes their live show so special is the involvement from the crowd so it might take some time for these songs to see their full potential. The chanting of the lyrics back to the men onstage instills a connection rarely seen by bands and their crowd. Titus Andronicus is band by the people for the people. Their charged anthems are composed of definite political context beyond the Civil War analogies of The Monitor and perhaps the best part of Local Business is the directness of the lyrics. The grandiose song writing doesn't seem as abstract as it has in the past (Patrick Stickles actually has an eating disorder and wrote "(I Am The) Electric Man" after being jolted during band practice) and this could be some of their most accessible material to date. Since the beginning of their career, there have been countless claims that they've been inspired by Springsteen (a plague to anyone from the Garden State), however on this record it seems truer than ever. They are working class men from the other side of the river. Their themes are embedded in blue collar hometown roots. They themselves are their own Local Business.

October 19, 2012

Metz and King Tuff played Knitting Factory

Hot off the release of their self-titled debut album, Toronto noise punks Metz are in the midst of a busy CMJ week here in New York and took part in Sub Pop's showcase at Knitting Factory. The trio wasted no time as they began their shrieking attack before the house music even faded away. Their blitz style of a performance featured high swinging guitars and blistering energy powered by slashing riffs and heavy drones of fuzzed out bass. With their record clocking in just shy of thirty minutes, there wasn't any longevity to be expected from their show, but it certainly packed a punch as raucous shouts joined post-punk brood. "Wet Blanket" (a personal highlight from their album) brought their set to an end after a battering jam threw out one final punch.

After Metz's punishing attack King Tuff brought the vibes to a much more mellow setting as his party induced jams flooded the room. His recent release fell slightly under the radar, but there is no doubt his sing-a-long style is sure to be met with smiles. Following such a charged set, his tunes certainly felt more relaxed, but just as exciting and even pleasurable. Power-pop melodies were inundated with sugary sweet choruses and Kyle even dedicated a track to a moose he saw on the highway in Canada. Who doesn't love a cute moose? For over an hour, King Tuff blazed through one of the longer sets I've even seen at CMJ (especially for a non-headliner) oozing good times and positive energy even if he is a self proclaimed "Bad Thing"!

October 17, 2012

Fiona Apple played Terminal 5

After a few teases, the lights dimmed, a herd rushed on stage, and Fiona Apple launched into her stellar show at Terminal 5. Without hesitation, the songstress enveloped the building with "Fast As You Can" and never let up. Her sensational set list highlighted her entire body of work and each song was performed with such passion and emotion that you'd think she hadn't disappeared for years. Shadowboxer into Paperbag was magical and the follow up of recent stunner "Anything We Want" showcased her brilliant ability to transition between songs written so far apart. Every song was met with monstrous applause and cheers and it was evident that her devoted fans were out in full force. Some had probably waited over a decade to sing a long word for word with every lyric that was delivered with intense vigor by Apple. Such intensity that in some cases it resulted in her collapsing to the floor. While her newest album The Idler Wheel... is rather sparse in comparison to her past material, their live renditions breathed a new energy into each track that gave them new life and flaunted her band's talent. A year ago, no one would have predicted the number of chances New Yorkers would have to see their hometown darling and that might be what made this show (and tour) so special. For someone notoriously known for her erratic stage presence, Fiona Apple reappeared from the abyss not only with some of her best work to date, but with a rejuvenated live show that was light years better than anyone could have hoped for or expected.

"Fast As You Can"
"On the Bound"
"Paper Bag"
"Anything We Want"
"Get Gone"
"Sleep to Dream"
"Extraordinary Machine"
"Left Alone"
"I Know"
"Tymps (The Stick in the Head Song)"
"Not About Love"
"It's Only Make Believe" (Conway Twitty Cover)

October 12, 2012

Kanye West - "White Dress"

Hopefully you've heard that RZA is about to make his directorial debut with The Man With the Iron Fists and if not, well now you know. The awesome cast features Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, RZA, was written by RZA and Eli Roth and produced by Quentin Tarantino. Damn! With a cast and crew like that, you'd imagine it would also have a killer soundtrack. You'd be correct. Check out Kanye's track "White Dress" which has been getting buzz all week thanks to the lyric "You like pina coladas / Gettin' caught in the rain / Or rocking flannels all summer like Kurt Cobain."

October 4, 2012

Crystal Castles played Roseland Ballroom

Despite recently sharing a lot of festival bills with big name EDM artists like Justice, Deadmau5, and Skrillex, Crystal Castles brought their actual live show to Roseland Ballroom and showcased exactly what sets them apart from other big name dance acts. HEALTH kicked off the night with a blistering set of electro-noise rock that saw insane amounts of hair flipping, warped vocals, and a slamming rendition of "USA Boys" all while straddling the line of hardcore noise and dance music that seemed to leave some a little confused as to whether they should be dancing or moshing. Crystal Castles didn't help solve that dilema as the electro-punks unleashed their unique blend of big beats, live drumming, and Alice Glass' ferocious attack on the crowd. Disorienting lights flashed in every direction as Alice walked on the audience as if channeling her inner Iggy Pop and while her vocals were almost absent, the rest of the mix was at a soul crushing volume. Bro-step fans were out in full force to groove along to the band's eccentric electric throbbing rhythms and while some fans crowd surfed above, the dancing was kept to a surprising minimum. However unlike other contemporary guy-girl electro-punk duos (Sleigh Bells I'm looking at you), the energy of the show never let up and there was a heavy dose of their hits ("Crimewave", "Celestica", "Alice Practice", "Untrust Us", and a main set ending "Not in Love") that were all met with relentless euphoria from fans. While people raged on the floor, it did seem like there was some distance between the band and the dance party. Even though there was somewhat live instrumentation, it seems like modern dance acts can't compete with the connection generated by a live band. However, where their peers (Swedish House Mafia, Tiesto, Calvin Harris) all stand behind huge decks far removed from their fans, Crystal Castles aren't afraid to get up in your face and make themselves apart of the experience.

October 2, 2012

Jay-Z played the Barclays Center

I have no doubt that if the Barclays Center popped up in my neighborhood, I'd be less than thrilled. However, when I descended upon the rusted monstrosity, I surrendered to its magnitude. It's alien like structure penetrated the ground and rose like a glowing orb into the night sky. Upon entering the arena, it became apparent that you were in a place unlike anything you've ever experienced in New York. The smooth concrete juxtaposed against sleek wooden panels made the area feel more like a lounge than an sports complex and upon entering the stands, the all black everything decor furthered that thought. If anything, Jay-Z has created the ultimate club at which he can play house band. For two hours the Jigga Man dazzled the crowd in the ultimate Brooklyn celebration. Everything from a "Juicy" cover to the constant acknowledgment of his hometown friends ("We're all from Brooklyn tonight!") made the purpose of the evening (and week) clear.  Jay-Z owns less than a percent of the Nets and yet if you ask anyone in Brooklyn "who runs this town?", there is a clear answer. HOVA assaulted the crowd with his bombardment of hits that have spanned his career, the forever epic "99 Problems" was an early evening highlight while brief bursts of "03 Bonnie & Clyde" and "I Just Want to Love You" reminded everyone just how many monster singles this man has delivered over the years. Stellar anthems "Big Pimpin" "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" and "(Ain't no Love) Heart of the City" were just as sensational as one could hope (hell, even "Empire State of Mind" was welcomed with open arms) and while some other tracks provided some perhaps necessary filler, Jay-Z earned his title as the self-proclaimed greatest rapper alive. There has been a lot of talk of just what this new establishment will do to the local community, but while we wait to find out, there will be plenty to keep us busy. He is New Yorker's favorite rags to riches story and with Beyonce by his side, he is on his way to becoming national royalty. Brooklyn, say hello to your once and future king.