Camera Obscura’s show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. on June 21 should have been phenomenal: a series of tight, precise readings drawing largely from the band’s last two – and strongest – albums.
But sometimes, great songs just aren’t enough. There’s something to be said about what stage presence can mean to a show. Someone needs to tell Camera Obscura. The sextet’s lack of energy during the 65-minute set kept their performance from reaching anything more than a pleasant collection of tunes.
Simply put, it felt like you were at home listening to a record, until you remembered you were in a rock club. Some people certainly enjoyed it, and the band didn’t disappoint, playing the crucial tracks from its four-album output. But there was just something missing — an unmistakable quality that separates a great performance from an adequate one.
READ ON for more of Rudi’s take on Camera Obscura’s recent concert…
In Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads’ magnificent 1984 concert film, you don’t see a lingering shot of the audience until the film’s final song, Crosseyed and Painless. Until this final climactic guitar workout, the audience is purposefully kept hidden — David Byrne and director Jonathan Demme did it so the film-viewing audience could form their own opinion of the show, uninfluenced by crowd reaction. When you finally do see the crowd, they’re all dancing uncontrollably, seemingly enthralled by the performance.
[Photos of David Byrne at Bonnaroo by Dave Vann]
It’s somewhat fitting then, that at Byrne’s June 6 performance at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va., it took that very song — 11 songs into the 2-hour set — to finally get the typically reserved Wolf Trap crowd up and out of their seats. Maybe it’s understandable; it was the first real Heads heavy hitter in a set which — to that point — was dominant on Byrne’s other work. Perhaps it’s simple irony; just as Stop Making Sense’s Crosseyed and Painless gives visual evidence to Byrne’s power over an audience, the song still does the same thing 25 years later.
And it was the Talking Heads songs that proved most effective and garnered the biggest reactions from the crowd all night (despite Byrne never uttering the band’s name). Byrne smartly tailored his show as a back-heavy affair: after Crosseyed, he played seven Talking Heads songs, making it 11 out of 20 for the night. But where Byrne in the past had played Talking Heads songs with his various solo bands as re-arranged and re-imagined pieces (Example: a slowing down of This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)), here Byrne and his band largely stuck to the originally Byrne/Eno arrangements.
READ ON for more of Rudi’s thoughts on the David Byrne show…
With The Black Keys and Dan Auerbach each hitting stops in the greater Maryland/Washington D.C. region last month, it only seemed appropriate to stack the two shows against each other – Auerbach’s main gig vs. his side gig, Baltimore, MD vs. Washington D.C., duo vs. ensemble.
[All Photos By Zachary Herrmann]
So, what better way to compare the two than with a Battle of the Bands? We’ll tally up points for each round, and, at the end, crown a winner. Let’s see how Auerbach fared against Auerbach.
With The Black Keys, you know exactly what you’re getting: two dudes, a guitar, a drum kit and a lot of noise. The Akron, Ohio twosome has been doing its dirty, bluesy, garage rock thing for the better part of the decade and – after last year’s brilliant Attack and Release – is in perhaps its creative height.
Dan Auerbach’s backing band for his first solo tour behind last month’s Keep It Hid was more of an uncertainty. We knew going in that Texas upstarts Hacidena – whose 2008 album, Loud Is the Night was produced by Auerbach – would be backing Auerbach, but we didn’t know My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick O’Hallahan would be joining in on added percussion. The Feb. 28 show was the band’s first live performance (something Auerbach noted early on) and this new, six-piece gave Auerbach more room to breathe than he’s ever had with The Black Keys. With two drummers, a bassist, keyboards and a rhythm guitarist to back him, Auerbach was able to focus on his vocals and his leads, with a full band to fill the space in between.
READ ON for the rest of Rudi’s comparison of Dan vs. The Keys…
“Oh a trance is a spell/ with a thrill wrapped up inside it,” Portland, Oregon singer-songwriter M. Ward sang, six songs into his set at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington on Feb. 21. While he may not have intended it, you can’t help but think the line is a bit self-referential.
[Photos by Zachary Herrmann]
There is, indeed, something trance-like about Ward’s music, and he had the crowd deep in meditation as he took the stage unaccompanied to open the show. With just an acoustic guitar, harmonica and his voice, Ward dazzled the crowd with impeccable leads on One Hundred Million Years and Duet for Guitars #3.
An underrated guitarist, Ward is simply mesmerizing with an acoustic guitar – effortlessly balancing bass notes with lead lines on the Rev. Robert Wilkins cover Prodigal Son. He’s no slouch on electric either, later destroying the fret board – with a full band in tow – on Bean Vine Blues #2, a song by one of his biggest influences, John Fahey.
READ ON for more from Rudi on M. Ward in D.C….