Concert Review – The Good Natured at Mercury Lounge

January 17, 2012

The Good Natured delighted the crowd and a barrage of press at the famed Mercury Lounge in NYC, all eager to capture the moment when a band is on the verge of crossing over to super stardom. For the unconverted, The Good Natured are impossible to pigeonhole; their brand of dark electropop occupies a space somewhere between the heart of The Cranberries and the look and attitude of Siouxsie & the Banshees, without sounding like either. They are made up of siblings Sarah and Hamish McIntosh and their pal George on drums. Although they have performed in NYC before, this concert seemed to be a debut of sorts since they had recently released their Skeleton EP, which has catapulted them to mass attention from the blogosphere (ourselves included). A debut album is slated for release this year.

Set against a dark lit backdrop, The Good Natured took the stage shortly after 9pm and began strong with the infectious Video Voyeur, a track that was on our top singles list and which is available to download for free if you become fans of their Facebook Page. For their second track, the sexy Be My Animal, we literally assisted Sarah off the stage as she joined the crowd while singing and dancing, a connection between artist and audience that is rare, and that impressed us immensely. Sarah made her way back up to the stage to perform crowd favorite, Wolves which was followed by EP opener, Your Body is A Machine . Sarah returned to the crowd again for a new song, Dead On The Dance Floor, one that will likely be included on their debut album. The Good Natured closed the evening with single, Skeleton , a great track that got the crowd holding onto and singing along to every word. Although there was no encore, the crowd appreciated the band’s approachability as they walked into the crowd to take pictures and sign autographs. Although the evening may have been short on time, it was long on fun.

Set List
Video Voyeur
Be My Animal
Your Body Is a Machine
Dead On The Dance Floor

Photo/Video Credits: Allison Gates

Monarchy In The USA – Concert Review

December 11, 2011

Monarchy got the intimate crowd moving and grooving last night at their NYC debut show at the Highline Ballroom theater. I arrived just as the band was doing setup, and they were dressed head-to-toe in white jump suites and masks that made them look like they were the ill-fated participants at Carrousel from the 1970s cult classic, Logan’s Run.
Once finished they dashed back stage and returned in a NY minute, sans Logan outfits, replaced by their signature suits, leather vest harnesses and black leather masks and began their set with Black Is The Color of My Heart, the lead track off their excellent debut, Around The Sun. Monarchy got the crowd dancing with their second number, Love Get Out Of My Way, and by their third song, Phoenix Alive, found their footing with the crowd with a momentum that continued to grow throughout the evening. Human was performed acapella, with harmonizer effects that proved both chilling and moving. They proved themselves as accomplished musicians on Floating, where the lead singer rocked it out with a solo on his clear, neontastic lit electric guitar that transported the crowd back to the 80s.

Maybe I’m Crazy

A subdued electronic remake of Here Comes the Sun followed, which gave the audience a brief needed rest for they saved their two biggest hits, I Won’t Let Go and Maybe I’m Crazy for last, songs that got the crowd worked up into a frenzy, causing the whole theater to jump up and down and sing along – something unusual for a normally reserved New York audience. After the band left the stage, the crowd demanded a 3?! song encore, which seeing the band has only one album worth of material to work off from and had already played nearly every track, seemed unlikely, but Monarchy returned to the stage and performed Gold In The Fire to the appreciative crowd. Overall a great evening whose only shortcoming was that it felt way too short.

Photo/video credits: Allison Gates

Concert Review: Together In Electric Dreams – The Human League Play NYC

September 24, 2011

In 1981 The Human League famously asked, “Don’t You Want Me?” and even after 30 years, at least to this NYC audience, the answer was a resounding “Yes!”. Last night the Best Buy Theater was packed with fans who came to see The Human League perform their hits spanning 3 decades as well as hear material off their new album, Credo. To a blog that worships electronic music, particularly the bands profiled in the definitive british synthpop documentary, Synth Brittania, seeing the Human League after seeing other luminaries like Gary Numan, OMD and Erasure all in the past year, this concert was to be the icing on our electronic cake.

The story of The Human League’s humble beginnings to its meteoric rise is the modern day take on a fairy tale. After a falling out with Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh (who would go on to form Heaven 17), lead singer Phil Oakey was left without a band, and in desperate need of recruiting new members to record an album. He discovered teenagers Joanne Cathedral and Susan Ann Sulley after seeing them dancing at a nightclub in Sheffield. With his new lineup, they went into the studio and recorded the album Dare. Fourth Single, Don’t You Want Me (urban legend has it Oakey originally protested its release, but finally relented), with its high gloss, big budget video would bring The Human League international acclaim and become one of the top selling singles of the year. After an absense of 10 years, they have released a new album, Credo, that is a sorta return to their Dare era sound.

We arrived at the theater shortly after doors had opened and were able to get to the front center stage without any problem (an advantage of seeing English synthpop artists in America). Opening act, Men Without Hats took the stage at 8:30pm. Lead singer, Ivan Doroschuck came out wearing a leather biker outfit and wore a …gasp…HAT and pranced around the stage while performing hits such as Safety Dance, I Like, Pop Goes the World and Where Do The Boys Go?. He was received warmly by the crowd who appreciated his energy and enthusiasm. At times problems with sound caused me and the floor to vibrate, and these technical sound difficulties would foreshadow later problems that nearly derailed a highlight performance from The League.

The Human League took to the stage at 9:30pm. We liked the mod white stage and equipment (even the microphones and stands were white) and minimal staging. They began the set after some mood music with new single, Never Let Me Go, which had their kaleidoscopic trippy video playing on a huge projection screen behind them to great effect. This was followed by two early classics, Open Your Heart and a personal favorite of ours, Sound of the Crowd.

Although the crowd was appreciative, the next few songs weren’t met with the same level of frenzy as Empire State Human, a fan favorite, which got the crowd dancing. This was followed by lead single, Night People, off of their new album, Credo.

Things took a dramatic change, after Oakey asked the audience to sing along to fan favorite, (Keep Feeling) Fascination, when a malfunction with the speakers caused the sound (particularly bass) to be reduced dramatically. Oakey was visibly shaken, but took things in stride, pacing the stage and shooting daggers at the sound technician while the girls adopted a “the show must go on” attitude and got the audience singing. It was a beautiful moment, where the artist and audience were united and determined not to let it ruin the performance. The problems with sound were only temporary and by the end of the song, the sound was back to normal, which was just in time for their biggest hit, Don’t You Want Me, that had the audience singing and hanging to every word (yes, I freely admit I was singing, “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar”).

I was worried that with the sound problems, there may not be an encore, but The Human League did not disappoint and came back out to perform the single that started it all, Being Boiled and the not technically, but still League aligned, Together In Electric Dreams, which upon reflection seemed like the perfect closing to a perfect evening spent in electric dreams.

Set List
Never Let Me Go
Open Your Heart
Sound of the Crowd
Heart Like A Wheel
The Lebannon
Empire State Human
Night People
Love Action
All I Ever Wanted
Tell Me When
Mirror Man
(Keep Feeling) Fascination
Don’t You Want Me
Being Boilded
Together In Electric Dreams

I just want to give a special thanks to my sister Allison for taking photos and being the perfect concert buddy and for The Human League who gracially met us and fans after the show. They were very genereous with their time and allowed us to take pictures.

Concert Review: Erasure. L’Amour For the Old, A Little Respect For the New
Concert Review: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Concert Review: Tom Hadley of Spandau Ballet

Where Are They Now: 80’s Artists
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Concert Review: Erasure. L’Amour For the Old, A Little Respect For the New

September 14, 2011

Synthpop pioneers, Erasure gave a croud-rousing, jump-in-the-air performance last night at Terminal 5, the first of two NYC shows in support of their new album, Tomorrow’s World. Suprisingly, I had never been to an Erasure concert before, although this wasn’t intentional – I love this band! I met up with friends also attending and when we arrived at 8:30pm,  Frankmusic was already taking his final bow (I really ought to plan better next time). I was excited at the possibility of reliving memories through song and curious to hear their new material since the album hasn’t come out yet (but you can hear the first single here). Would I be impressed? Would seeing them now after all these years be worth the wait?

Erasure started their set early (around 9pm), with Andy wearing what could best be described as an outfit inspired by the horse puppets in the current broadway hit, Warhorse and a set design from the Toscano catalogue. This was contrasted by the relatively low key opening, Sono Luminus, an album track taken from their overlooked 1995 self-titled album. The crowd went wild, however, with second number, Always, their final American hit. Just as the energy peaked, the energy was subdued again by their new single, When I Start To (Break It All Down). It was met with a warm reception, however it became clear that this crowd came to hear their hits. Drama followed, and it got everyone moving again as did, Chorus, both of which got the crowd shouting along with the lyrics. Vince came up from behind his keyboards and grabbed a guitar to perform Victim Of Love which proved one of the highlights of the show, although it became obvious that there wasn’t the same chemistry between Vince and Andy than there was with Andy and his backup singers. Other Showstoppers included Chains Of Love, A Little Respect, Sometimes and Oh l’Amour. The new songs, although well received, didn’t have the same energy and reaction from the crowd, who most likely, were hearing the songs for the first time. It’s a shame the album wasn’t released earlier, or the tour start later, since this was a very devoted crowd who sang along and embraced the songs from their earlier career.

Overall, what did I learn? Erasure has amassed an incredible body of work, which has aged well, and is still adored by fans. This became obvious, when contrasted with their new material that was not met with the same level of enthusiasm. As my friend joked, it gave the crowd of mostly over 40 (myself included) a break, an opportunity to hit the restroom and grab a cocktail before “the really great stuff came on.” Overall, 5 new out of over 20 songs was not enough to damper the evening and I had an amazing time and was suprised how quickly it had ended. I strongly recommend you check them out and appreciate the genius that they are.

Sono Luminus
When I Start To Break It All Down
Blue Savannah*
Fill Us With Fire
You’ve Got To Save Me
Ship Of Fools
Victim Of Love*
Push Me Shove Me
Love To Hate You*
I Lose Myself
Whole Lotta Love Run Riot
Breath Of Life
Chains Of Love*
A Little Respect*
Oh L’Amour*


Concert Review: Tom Hadley of Spandau Ballet

August 16, 2011

I confess I am not much of Spandau Ballet fan, whose success in the US was limited to their hit, True. I do, however, think Chant No. 1 has held up fairly well and is a decent party track. I also confess to liking Gold, not in spite of, but precisely because of its pretentious over-the-top campy pseudo melodrama. I thought that the Spandau Ballet book, for the US anyways, had been pretty much closed with the exception of appearances on soundracks to films referencing the 80s and the occasional music sample (along with pretty much all English synthpop bands from that era). So imagine how stunned I was when I found out that the lead singer was performing, for free, at Market Days, a gay street festival in Chicago, that I was attending. To give you a sense of how awkward his inclusion, consider the other headlining acts; Lisa Lisa, Gloria Gaynor and Darren Criss, from the television show, Glee. These are the kind of artists you’d expect to perform for free at a gay street festival. Would this crowd know who the hell he was (or Spandau Ballet for that matter)? Would they care? Would his performance be…GOLD!?

I got an answer when I arrived at the stage 5 minutes before showtime and became painfully aware that I was one of the only people there. Darren Criss had performed mere hours before and it was so packed the crowd overflowed onto street causing foot traffic to come a grinding halt. A security guard approached me and the other gaggle of “fans” and asked if we wanted to go with him to gain access to the stage area in front of the barracade. Sadly the people waiting didn’t know who he was and I had to explain that it was Tom Hadley (blank stares), the lead singer of Spandau Ballet (blank stares), the band that sung the song True (blank stares), which is the song that was sampled by PM Dawn (Ooh).

Being up front gave me the opportunity to see the setlist and i was horrified to see the list of covers he was going to perform (Killers, Foo Fighters, U2 and Queen?!) and only 4 Spandau Ballet songs (True, Gold, Chant No. 1, Only When You Leave). As Mr. Hadley took the stage, a crowd finally began to form and grow, but never enough to fill the area (or block traffic) and I had plenty of space in front to move around (and even do jumping jacks if I had wanted to). His presence and vocals were good, although I couldn’t help but feel that I was being cheated into listening to cover after cover, as if it was his own, even if it was for free. To me, it was kind of like seeing a coverband perform at a state fair. Highlights for the crowd included a sing-along performance of True, and his performance of Duran Duran‘s Rio, which surpringly seemed to have had a better reception than any of his original material. Sadly, due to time, he chose to cut Chant No. 1 from his set. I personally think there were plenty of covers more deserving of the axe. Was the concert GOLD!? Obviously not, but then again, I didn’t have high expectations going into it and it was was free.

OMD Concert – Epilogue

March 9, 2011

March 8, 2011

OMD have made their OMG return to a synthpop obsessed sold out crowd last night at Terminal 5 in NYC. Although many in the audience were likely fans during their heyday, there were a significant number of younger converts, who were introduced by the praise of recent synthpop artists like La Roux, Robyn and Hurts, who name Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (or OMD as they are more commonly known) as their main musical influence. This was the first time OMD had performed in the US in 23 years and it was a serious gamble for them to invest on a tour here, but when the evening finally ended, lead singer Andy McCluskey, who was physically shaken by such an enthusiastic reception, vowed to return.

The story of OMD is sadly, a familiar one. Although OMD have enjoyed commercial success in the UK since 1980, in the US, like many quality UK electronic acts from the decade, OMD’s prominence in American culture began and ended with one hit single, 1986’s, If You Leave. It was this song that defined the teenage angst of the x- generation from its inclusion in the seminal John Hughes movie classic, “Pretty In Pink.” Whereas the US audience finally took notice, a backlash began in the UK as fans dismissed their new sound for being “watered-down”. Sadly, they never recaptured their initial critical and financial success on both sides of the Atlantic and in 1996, OMD called it a day. Everything changed, however, last year, when the excellent BBC documentary “Synth Britannia”, finally gave OMD the recognition as true pioneers of electronic music and the momentum surrounding this band has been building ever since.

My friends and I decided to meet for cocktails at Hell’s Kitchen bar, Industry prior to the show. One cocktail led to another, and as I am sure you have already gathered, by the time we left, opening act Oh Land had already gone on stage. We ran to the venue and were able to catch their closing, Son Of A Gun, an extremely catchy single that sounds vaguely like Adele if she embraced electronics. The crowd was clearly impressed and I predict great things from them. You can catch them when they perform at the NewNowNext awards coming April 11, 2011 on LOGO.

OMD finally took the stage shortly after 9pm and opened with an obscure track off their latest album, which created nice atmosphere, but didn’t get the crowd going. This was ok, though, because I was immediately taken by how well lead singer Andy McCluskey had aged. Now over 50, he looks hot! But I digress. The crowd found their footing with third song Messages and the momentum kept up while they played such classic hits as Tesla Girls, Forever Live and Die, So In Love and Joan Of Arc. It soon became clear OMD knew their target audience and weren’t going to alienate old fans with all new material, a point that Andy McCluskey actually joked about early in the evening.

If I were to identify a lull moment in the show, I would have to say it were the few songs performed after crowd pleaser, Maid of Orleans. This was confirmed when at one point Andrew himself seemed bored and sat down on stage while singing. Things picked up again with Locomotion and the show continued to build for the rest of the evening. Crowd favorites included Souvenir, Maid of Orleans, Enola Gay, If You Leave and the encore performance of Electricity.

When it was finally over, you could see that Andrew has moved by the reception. They hadn’t toured the US in 23 years and were told that there wasn’t a market for their sound in the US, but that this sold out crowd had proved his naysayers wrong. Because of our love and enthusiasm, he promised to return and this is something this fan is holding him to.

I just to give a special shout out for my sister Allison and bestest friend Jason for making this such an incredible evening.

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