Review: Neon Indian at Bluebird Theater, 4/9/12
NEON INDIAN @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | 4/09/12
A little over halfway through the Neon Indian show, Leanne Macomber left her spot at the keyboards and picked up the Roland G-77 Bass Controller that had been played by Joshua McWhirter during certain parts of the rest of the show, while McWhirter, wearing a Pylon T-shirt, took up his Jazzmaster. Anyone familiar with Era Extraña could have guessed what the song would be, and McWhirter teased in part of the guitar line before the whole band went into the headiest moment of the night with a performance of the moody and deeply evocative "Fallout." The song's expansive, melancholy melody filled the theater with a sense of reflective nostalgia. Alan Palomo, for his part, danced ably, as he did to every song, striking a commanding figure despite the late-night feel of so many of his songs.
Tom Murphy Neon Indian at The Bluebird Theater
Neon Indian started the show in darkness, with just the indicator lights on the instruments illuminating the way to their positions on the stage. A wash of light tone swelled into "Halogen (I Could Be a Shadow)." It was a slightly more full and organic sound than Neon Indian's albums, and McWhirter's guitar work was reminiscent of Phil Manzanera in his wildest moments experimenting with how to utilize a heavily processed guitar sound in the context of a pop song. Palomo switched between straight-out fronting the band and playing sounds off what looked like a Moog modular synth and a Roland Juno-60 -- the latter of which seemed to trigger synth arpeggios.
Second came "Hex Girlfriend," along with an ineffable sense that we were getting to see some long-lost forgotten track from Human League's 1981 classic, Dare!, like a cousin to "Seconds" -- a breezy pace and richness of tones coming together. Live, "The Blindside Kiss" made you think of My Bloody Valentine's "To Here Knows When" in the way the guitar sound seemed to spiral inward and then surge, only to repeat.
During "Future Sick," Palomo held his mike to the crowd at the choruses -- a gesture he repeated with the followup, "6669 (I Don't Know If You Know)" -- and the audience obliged heartily. Throughout the set, a tall trapezoid that occupied the back of the stage between Jason Faries and Ed Priesner seemed to emit fog and provide various lights like some kind of leftover alien technology. "Polish Girl" found Palomo roaming about the stage more broadly, as did "Deadbeat Summer." The main set ended with what sounded like "Mind, Drip."
But the packed theater wanted more, and so Palomo and the band came back out to start off with "Terminally Chill" and finished with "Should Have Taken Acid With You." Earlier in the night, Palomo said that the last time the band was here, there were a lot fewer people, and that this time, "You guys have been an absolutely incredible audience."
The show opened with Brooklyn's Friends. The five-piece, fronted by Samantha Urbani, initially sounded like some kind of throwback to NYC circa the early '80s, except that Urbani's vocals seemed very reminiscent of a compelling hybrid of Dale Bozzio's lilting affectations and Lene Lovich's sheer strangeness and unexpected charisma. The rest of the band switched instruments throughout the show with some consistency, including Lesley Hann's fluid, strong and versatile bass playing.
Tom Murphy Friends last night at the Bluebird Theater
With two percussionists, the band pulled off rhythms and general experimental gestures heard in the music of ESG, Liquid Liquid, Bush Tetras or Erase Errata. Sure, there was a certain familiar ring to the music, but it was performed so well and with such a personal stamp, those initial touchstones faded away before the set was done. Some people knew the music and requested songs that the band graciously delivered -- pleasantly surprised that anyone outside of their usual digs would know them.
For the final number, Urbani came off the stage into the crowd and even embraced some guy near the first row of railings and danced with him. Urbani wisely did not try to hop back up on the stage from the floor of the Bluebird. Chances are, Friends won over more than a few people,as it got an enthusiastic response at the end, with people loudly asking for more.
Personal Bias: I love the song "Fallout" and got to see it live.
Random Detail: Ran into Ethan Converse of Flashlights and ManCub at the show.
By the Way: Doing the ululating sound that you hear in cartoonish depictions of Native Americans to show your appreciation for Neon Indian is weird.