Having grown up in refugee camps buried in the deeper Saharan parts of Mali and then come of age during a rebellious uprising by their fellow Toureg tribesmen in the 90’s, Tinariwen could have hard-knock street cred by the bushel—if they had any use for such things. They don’t. Instead their songs are excellent, joyous extended jams with one chord (and it’s a major chord, natch) and what I’d bet would prove to be soaring celebratory vocals, if I could understand them. It’s quite unfortunate that they get filed away, and often subsequently ignored as “world music”; the flavors are West African enough, plucked strings and hand drums and so on, but the mission is solidly rock ‘n’ roll, with guitars and most everything else turned up as loud as they’ll go. (To be fair to the pigeonholers, the African garb and outlandish headdresses are a pretty substantial red herring on this front.)
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A disgusting mid-March torrential downpour pushed me back to an 8:11 arrival for Zakir Hussain‘s 8 PM show at the Rose Theatre at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I was greeted by a guarded door, a closed-circuit TV monitoring the performance inside, and the typical theater promise that we’d be escorted inside by ushers as soon as there was an acceptable break in the performance. The problem with this is that, given the North Indian classical program, when you add up the introductory alap of the raga and the long-form virtuoso freak-out solo that follows, you often end up with a 45-minute piece. This quite distressed an elderly Indian woman who ended up stranded outside the theater with me. My distraught friend’s laments convinced them to let us in earlier than planned, thankfully, at which point we were loudly scolded, mid-performance, by Zakir while rooting around for empty seats. It wasn’t the shout out one usually hopes for.
Doing justice to a classic LP in a live setting is harder than it might seem. It requires finding a middle ground between reinterpretation and faithfulness; skew too far in either direction and fans will feel cheated. Luckily, The Wedding Present have a bit of experience in this area, having taken their debut LP George Best on the road in 2007 to celebrate its 20th anniversary. This time around the band dug into the 1989 indie-pop stone classic Bizarro and proved more than up to the task. After warming up with a few new numbers, the band launched into “Brassneck”, rendering the song’s bright, jangly guitars and pent up frustrations expertly. “This is quite an intense LP, in case you hadn’t noticed,” head Weddoe David Gedge quipped about halfway through side one. Eschewing an encore (as they are wont to do), the band played Bizarro front-to-back, channeling all of its energy, charm and lovelorn wit. But that didn’t stop fans from yelling out requests. When asked to play “Box Elder” (a Pavement cover that appears on the U.S. reissue of the album), Gedge explained that they were only running through the “classic” original UK version. When a fan yelled out “Come back next year and play Seamonsters,” however, Gedge seemed more amenable. “I will if you make it worth my while,” he said with a grin.
Brooklyn based Yeasayer started the US leg of their tour this weekend at a packed 930 Club in DC. And they put on a phenomenal show. They were tight, but relaxed, disco-y and ridiculously catchy at times, while still engrossingly weird; it was the best show I’ve been to in a while. And also one of the loudest. With a body-shaking synth beat, they were fond of occasionally drowning out some of the finer points of our favorite songs. But maybe I was just standing too close. Towards the end, Chris Keating briefly mocked the Tea Party movement, before he (unnecessarily) back pedaled and said it was cool if you were into that stuff, and quickly started the next song. The group was, however, decidedly in support of heavy beats and an epic show.
With the one-hour show well underway, Matt Johnson shouted from the stage, “Wednesday night Delaware dance party. Lets [expletive] do this!”. Sure enough, the happy crowd obliged, dancing along, waving their arms and crowd surfing to the energetic dance rock of Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim.
Matt & Kim’s 2010 Spring college and festival tour began at the University of Delaware’s Trabant University Center, and was, in fact, their first time playing in Delaware. The campus room/venue quickly turned into a sauna with the 980-person capacity crowd, the majority of whom were fairly young. And not university young. I mean younger than UD students in attendance. Kim Schifino even felt the need to apologize as she hoped to refrain from further profanity and vulgarity after she realized some small children were in the audience. But not even the simmering heat and stuffiness of the room could keep everyone from looking completely immersed.