Tim Kasher, Azure Ray at the hi-dive, 11/01/10
With Azure Ray and Tim Fite
11.01.10 | hi-dive
Tim Fite was equal parts comedian, provocateur, performance artist, filmmaker, MC, hip-hop producer and indie-pop songwriter. At least that's what his energetic and compelling set felt last night like at different points -- and sometimes all at once. The guy seemed fearless and supremely confident with every song and everything he attempted.
Apparently the joke was there was a singer being beamed in live via satellite, or something like that, but a lot of the time, that other singer was Tim's alter-ego projected onto a screen. Fite's set recalled Tracy + The Plastics, only he was manic instead of icily surreal, but just as amusing and fascinating to watch. The songs were well-crafted and -executed and they stood on their own -- otherwise, they never would have worked. But there's no replacing a guy who's not worried in the slightest if he looks the fool on stage in front of you.
There was something about Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor performing together again that had an aura of quiet dignity and presence, even when the two joked with the crowd. Starting the set with some older material, including "Displaced," Fink, Taylor and company played the perfect song for this season before the freeze sets in with "November."
Azure Ray's power isn't in overwhelming volume of any kind, but in creating the kind of emotional catharsis that comes from transforming emotional ordeals into deeply reflective moments, as embodied in songs with layered textures underneath Taylor and Fink's exquisitely harmonized vocals.
The middle of the set was mostly made up of material from Drawing Down the Moon, proving that the people in this project have lost none of their touch. "Signs in the Leaves" might have been a straightforward, country-flavored pop song if not for the darkly introspective lyrics and Taylor and Fink's ever-so-slightly quavering vocal delivery.
On the album, "Don't Leave My Mind" has a bit of an electronic element, but most of that was swapped out in favor of organic elements for this live set, lending the song a bit more warmth. Before playing it, Taylor asked us about our Halloween and told us how they didn't really dress up, except that Orenda had worn black lipstick.
"These White Lights Will Bend to Make Blue" got folks singing along, even more so when the set came to a close with the classic "Hold On Love." With self-deprecating humor and grace, especially when Fink's mike cut out, forcing the vocalists to share a mike during "Don't Leave My Mind," Azure Ray showed how you can be riveting without having to resort to cheap tricks.
The closest the act came to that was the joking, but that really only served to humanize the people on stage without taking away from the seriousness and power of the music. With music this serious, you have to have a few laughs.