On a seasonably warm night in New York City some loud straight ahead rock filled one of the Big Apple’s best venues. Opening the night were Bass Drum of Death with the trio’s take on garage rawkin. John Barnett is the founder and front-man slamming away on his Fender as Len Clarke simply dominates the drums. The band played tunes off its newest self titled album and tracks like “Bad Reputation” had a groove to them even minus a bass, but with second guitar, as the three piece slammed straight ahead. If the vocal effects had been scaled back Barnett’s lyrics might have actually been understood but the distortion seemed to be part of the vibe (as it is on their records) making most verses unintelligible.
Hanni El Khatib came out with three fellow musicians (Hayden Tobin- guitar/keys, Ron Marinelli- drums, Daniel Michicoff- bass) and kicked things off with the excellent title track from his most recent album Head In the Dirt. The swagger and style was evident from the jump as Khatib stalked around the stage and sang with a smooth confidence, playing the role of front-man confidentlyh. The bass and keys rumbled on the opener as the band seemed to lock in on the straight ahead tunes.
“Family” blared out with energy, “Can’t Win ‘Em All” allowed the drums to stomp and start before the band dropped a Cramps cover with “Human Fly”. At this point the instruments, fans and feedback were buzzing like an electrical storm all through the sold out house. The band must have felt amped as they rushed their most poppy song, “Penny”. While the sped up tempo didn’t work for that one it sure juiced “Skinny Little Girl” which also featured an organ break that was exhilarating.
“Dead Wrong” swayed while “Get Low” had a stomp and jangle, the crowd even started up a mini pit during “Pay No Mind” which was a winner. Seeing a full band with a charismatic front-man play these mostly simple tunes makes you think next release Hanni may look to expand his sound, like his heroes The Black Keys did with Brothers. His songwriting chops seem to be up to snuff, but even if he chooses to stay in this stomp and one-riff land Khatib is a great live experience as the crowd on this night can attest.