Review: Plaid at The Bluebird Theater, 11/19/11
Tom Murphy Plaid performing "At Last" last night at the Bluebird Theater.
PLAID at the BLUEBIRD | 11/19/11
One of the most vividly enduring memories of last night's Plaid show at the Bluebird Theater came at the end of the show, when the band performed "At Last." The video projected on the screen and the group itself made it seem like we had all entered some kind of alternate universe peopled with odd animated creatures and shifting landscapes. Even more than during the rest of the show, the richness of color augmented the experience of what was already one of the best tracks from Scintilli. The subtle bass accents coursed through the audience in counterpoint to synth lines, arpeggiated in an elegant staccato rhythm with the overaching robotic female vocals. It was like the sonic equivalent of an unexpectedly luminous white cloud against an overcast night sky: moving and powerful, yet soothing.
Tom Murphy Plaid - 35 Summers
Plaid came on with little fanfare. In fact, at first it was difficult to tell if it was indeed the bandmembers taking their places or just guys checking the equipment before the set. But as the lights were dimmed, Andy Turner and Ed Handley acknowledged the crowd, and the echoing plinks and intermittent chime sounds at the beginning of "35 Summers" -- with its haunting video with the octopus woman projected onto a screen in the background -- ushered in roughly ninety minutes of a remarkable live electronic performance.
Tom Murphy Plaid
"Eye Robot" followed "35 Summers" and sounded like a long-lost industrial dance track done right and set to a down-tempo cadence. Throughout the show, the lights were often slow, broad lightning strikes of various colors or circles that evolved, split off, multiplied, appeared alone or wandered about. Musically, the songs were often repetitive, but in a way that allowed for subtle changes in tone, pacing, volume and intensity over the course of each composition.
Plaid also never seemed to really recycle an idea, and, as a kind of companion to this, the light show was very different for each song -- not unusual, considering that the music was linked to the controls for the lighting rig and triggered accordingly. But there were also images of odd robotic creatures, including, at one point, a stylized skull on the screen on various songs.
Tom Murphy Eyen
Toward the end, one of the songs featured a backdrop of a jet leaving a contrail while red banks of lights were superimposed over the top on and off. Before the end of the set, a bright, polymorphic vortex of an image swept over the band and the screen, giving the illusion of three dimensional movement. After the fantastic performance of "At Last," the members of Plaid left the stage for a few moments, but they came back on for "Eyen" when the enthusiastic crowd cheered for one more.
As they played the song, an elaborate and beautifully eerie video projection played in black and white, evoking the sensation of looking out a kind of cathedral window onto a village and then into a mountain tunnel beyond to a secret underworld, where people -- and parts of people -- seem to have been harvested for some nefarious purpose. As perspective shifted back out to the cathedral window, the entire clip turned into a black and white spiral pattern that yielded a color pinwheel that was out of focus and spilled forth color and drew it back in and then covered the screen in a quadrant of color while turning clockwise. If you're going to end your set on such an odd, yet gorgeous, visual, it may as well be to one of your best songs.