Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dance Gypsy, Sing Gypsy

So the New Pornographers were in Philly last night and rocked the Electric Factory.  There's not a lot to say, specifically -- they were in fine form, took the stage and did a relentless set for close to an hour.  The balance wasn't great, and it was almost impossible to hear the lyrics, which is a pet peeve of mine.   But it was a hot show.

Unfortuately, the opening act was overlong, and did not inspire.  Andrew Bird does a sort of alt-gypsy music.  He plays the electric violin (strumming it like a uke, doing Laurie Anderson-like tricks, playing gypsy riffs) as well as the electric guitar.  He whistles both piercingly and impressively.   He plays strange, haunting songs, in bygone styles, turned modern.    He certainly had some fans in the house.  I can't say that I "get" his music, though.

My date for the evening was my wife, who was not up to staying for the bitter end.   I warned her in advance about Andrew Bird, so she was prepared to sit through his set for the NPs.   He went on for a good hour and ten minutes, and she thought all his work sounded the same.

He was enamored of the new trend of looping himself live and playing over the loop.  This can be a cool technique (my wife calls it "cheating"), but he overuses it, like someone with a new gadget.     He likes to stretch out vocal lines, to the point of indulgence.

I think worst of all was the double-headed victrola set piece, that sat in front of the NPs drum set.   It of course called to mind the "vintage" sound of his music (I told my wife that his songs sound like they should be coming out of a victrola).  But he has a switch on a pedal that made the two victrola heads rotate -- which he had happen several times during his set to diminishing returns, as if there were many returns to be had to begin with.  It started off lame and ended up silly.

There was another set-piece victrola, the mouth facing the audience, that didn't do anything other than sit atop a monstrous trapezoidal pedestal that cluttered the stage.   We applauded when the roadies cleared it.

A half-hour, or 45-minute set even, would have been quite enough.   When all the clutter --aural and physical -- was off the stage, the NPs had two extra people and a lot more room to move.   We had to leave during the closing number (and missed the encore) but at least we got to hear them sing "Sing Me Spanish Techno"

It's not often that I'm that disappointed in a performers' set or work.   If a performer is not quite all that, usually the set is mercifully short and I don't begrudge someone their chance.  But this time the perfomer was unengaging, indulgent and went on longer than the main act.  Pity.

1 comment:

lef said...

I completely agree with you about the Andrew Bird set last night. Way too long and seemed overly enamored of all the bells and whistles he could use. Thank god the New Pornos ripped through their set like the indie power pop geniuses they are.

Also, I like your blog!