Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Show review: Blonde Redhead at Bottom Lounge, 7/19

By Andrew Hertzberg

It’s hard to pick one thing I like most about Blonde Redhead. Sometimes it’s lead singer Kazu Makino’s heavenly voice, blending itself with the instrumentation of twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace behind her. Sometimes it’s the band’s ability to pick an entirely unpredictable chord to transition to, opting for a minor when a major is expected (and vice versa). Sometimes it’s the indiscernibility to pin down their sound: Downtempo? Shoegaze? Dreampop? Jazz? Sometimes it’s the ethereal and vaguely surreal ambiance of their general sound. After seeing them live at the Bottom Lounge on Tuesday, I can now add great live performance to the list.

As much as I love to support all the opportunities for outdoor music our city provides (especially when they’re free), I opted out of going to Blonde Redhead’s Millennium Park performance Monday night, anticipating a steamy, humid sunset in a huge pavilion wouldn’t be the ideal setting for the band (even if it’s underneath a powerful skyline). For anyone who did go though, I highly recommend checking them out again indoors. That ethereal quality I mentioned earlier? It’s times ten in a venue, smoke filling up a stage subtly illuminated by intermittent light bulbs. The set kicked off with "Black Guitar" off of last year’s Penny Sparkle. As it was their most recent album, the setlist favored heavily in that direction, although with just as much from 2007’s 23. Artist purism be damned: I know the early stuff is supposed to be the best but 23 just tickles me in the right spots every time. The highlights from the night for me were certainly from that album. The guitar lead in "Spring and By Summer Fall" is absolutely perfect, the keys in "SW" are absolutely ominous and the la-la-la-la-la-la’s coupled with the My Bloody Valentine guitar of the title track are absolutely cathartic.

Hardly a word was spoken in between songs adding to the austere atmosphere of the evening. As high energy as the entire set was, the encore cooled things down a bit, starting off with the headbob friendly "In Particular" from 2000’s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, a treat for the more devoted fans given the more recent album leanings of the main set. Another great moment during the encore was the last track off 2004’s Misery is a Butterfly "Equus," the reflection of Makino’s being thrown off of and trampled by a horse (as represented by the video for the song as well). The night finally closed out with the eponymous track from the newest album, a haunting, fragile slowdive that leaves much hidden in its depth.  And that’s another reoccurring theme to Blonde Redhead’s music: the layers, the depth, the sounds you don’t hear immediately but are waiting to be discovered. Another competitor to add to the list of what I like about them.

Black Guitar
Here Sometimes
Dr. Strangeluv
Spring and By Summer Fall
Falling Man
Not Getting
In Particular
Will There Be Stars
Penny Sparkle


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