Mere minutes before The Antlers were scheduled to start their Tuesday night performance at The Phoenix Concert Theatre the stage was a blur of activity. The Brooklyn trio had only just arrived having faced delays at the Canadian border. Thanks to the efforts of an amazingly efficient crew gear was unpacked, plugged in, line checked, and ready to go in less than 15 minutes. The frantic arrival didn’t seem to phase front man Peter Silberman. Grinning, he stepped out to greet an anxious audience and quickly got things underway. Listening to the opening song “Kettering” and watching Silberman metamorphose from a jovial man of smiles and waves into a man devastated by the helplessness of cancer’s insouciant grip was nothing short of amazing. His haunting vocals paired with the dreamy melancholy of Darby Cicci’s keyboards and Michael Lerner’s driving percussion coalesced into a sound machine that consumed the room with its gravity. It’s no wonder the band’s 2009 release, Hospice, has been so critically acclaimed. The Antlers held the crowd’s attention with incredible versions of “Bear” and “Two”, songs filled with emotional heartache that naturally pours from Silberman on stage. Sadly, the brief five-song set only lasted 40 minutes, and despite most fans being in attendance to see the headlining Editors, very few would have complained if they played on.
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A Lone Star’s Amazing Flight
“They say don’t call it a comeback, but I say….call it one!” - Jomama Jones.
CD release concerts are always auspicious occasions. However, a CD release concert doubling as an artist’s homecoming carries extra weight. Such was the premise when Jomama Jones recently took the stage at Joe’s Pub.
The brainchild of Daniel Alexander Jones, this ‘80s soul superstar has traveled the globe for the past two decades, most recently settling in Switzerland. In 2009, she returned to the US and began writing songs with Bobby Halvorson—who also became the musical director of her comeback show. The result, Lone Star, produced and recorded by Jones and Halvorson, comprises nine original songs, plus an additional contribution from Grisha Coleman. Thus the ninth of February was consecrated, marking the 21st century re-emergence of Jomama Jones in downtown New York—a long way from her Mississippi roots, even further away from the Swiss mountains, but ever so close to her devoted fans.
Flanked by The Sweet Peaches and a five-piece band, Jomama Jones delivered a 70-minute set that warmed the hearts and souls of bone-chilled New Yorkers. “It is a privilege and a pleasure to be back”, she cooed to the deafening applause that greeted her first two numbers, “Jomamasong” and “Endless Summertime”. Sensitive to a socio-political climate that was “inhospitable to soul,” Jones explained her reasons for fleeing the US 25 years ago. “Black power got turned off”, she said simply. “Somebody didn’t pay the bill”.
With the exception of the house-oriented “Roots in the River”, Jomama Jones performed Lone Star in its entirety. From the soul-stirring “Down Down Down” (a highlight) to the heart-stopping beauty of “Lilac Tree”, the new wave rock of “Uninvited Guest”, and the coy and clever “Show Pony”, Jones worked the sold-out crowd over with an intimate rapport and disarming stage presence. Bathed in aqua blue light, Jones dedicated “The Mermaid” to the late Ana Sisnett and later thanked Rhonda Ross Kendrick for championing Lone Star from the page to the stage. In between, Jones graciously turned the stage over to The Sweet Peaches (Helga Davis, Grisha Coleman, and Sonja Perryman), whose performance of “Soul Uprising” intersected with “Uninvited Guest” and “Show Pony” as audience favorites of the evening.
“Pin your wish on me, I’ll carry it high”, sings Jones on the title track of her album. If she should make an appearance in your neighborhood, bring your wishes with you and join her for an amazing flight.
Victoria Bergsman and her solo venture Taken by Trees took over the Knitting Factory Brooklyn Wednesday night, playing songs mostly from their 2009 release, East of Eden. Celebrated for its effortless synthesis of Pakistani Sufi melodies and the best of minimalist Swedish indie pop, it is a refreshingly diverse yet accessible record and one of last year’s best. Performed live, however, Eden’s precise and fluid rhythmic layers lost their form while its hypnotic melodies were reduced to a few unbalanced instruments and Bergsman’s melancholy voice. More than anything the show was completely devoid of energy. Beginning with a screening of a short film by Marcus Soderlund, “Taweel Safar-The Long Journey”, the group then performed several upbeat tracks from Eden, like “To Lose Someone” and the Animal Collective cover “My Boys”. But Bergsman was so listless while gently tapping her tambourine, and beyond simply exuding seriousness, that she appeared more indifferent to their set than those loudly talking over the music at the bar. Most of the time it was best to just close one’s eyes, listen, and replay Soderlund’s images in one’s mind.
Multiple online music forums were abuzz when it was announced that The Magnetic Fields would be playing at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto. A gorgeous venue that provides comfortable seats and outstanding sound quality to its audience, it was no coincidence that the band performed the entire show seated and playing in an almost orchestral style.
However fans pronounced the group’s name (“Yeah-sayer”, “Yay-sayer”) all left the Music Hall of Williamsburg buzzing, humming, or both. It was hard to walk away without a melody or to not bob your head to Yeasayer’s polished sound collage. Celebrating the release of their second full-length album, Odd Blood, the synth, guitar, and bass trio (backed by a drummer and multi-instrumentalist) still seemed to produce their best sounds while playing material from their debut, All Hour Cymbals. The originally thin sounding and Indian-tinged “Wait for the Summer” was tight yet sonorous, catalyzing a swaying party and the crowd’s excitement before they completely lost it for the new single, “Ambling Alp”. At times the Hall was awash in ooh-ing choruses, of which “Madder Red” and encore “2080” were downright anthemic. While the group’s polyrhythms jumped from afrobeat to new wave to a pixilated dance floor thump bassist Ira Wolf Tuton filled in spaces with poignant fills on his fretless. Throughout, panels and columns of morphing neon lights that changed with their sounds flanked them. Also, Anand Wilder’s gold glitter guitar strap (with pick holster) is one the coolest I’ve seen around.