[6 December 2011]
A singer/songwriter in the limelight can often be a direct contradiction, pitting an artist’s introverted persona against the attention that comes with notoriety. Writing an intimate song, alone on a porch, retains a certain romanticism that is easily lost when performing in front of a crowd. A.A. Bondy could easily be this type of frontman judging by his recordings alone. His three albums to date are understated, delicate, and brooding. Bondy proved at The Bowery Ballroom that nothing is lost in translation at his live shows, and the result was a performance from a man trying to draw a crowd into his world, rather than being forced into theirs.
After openers Gold Leaves’ set, Bondy crept out on stage almost unnoticed. He tuned his guitar and fiddled with peddles, toothpick in mouth, as if he was the roadie for a southern rock outfit about to bring the house down. As the show began, The Bowery Ballroom’s myriad of multi-colored stage lights were dimmed to black, where they stayed for the entirety of the show. Eerily cellular video loops projected onto a hanging sheet were the only source of light on-stage and The Bowery immediately shrunk to the size of a venue where Bondy would feel right at home. He even commented on the lack of light in the place, and how he enjoyed it. The fact is, he thrived in it, and the darkness acted as a conductor for his voice to seep more easily through.
Perhaps the most crucial element of A.A. Bondy’s live show is his technical prowess as a guitar player. The same rawness that captured people’s attention in his first band Verbena, is still at play in his solo project, only it’s harnessed more skillfully and used with an aching restraint. He commands delay peddles, heavy effects, and feedback with noticeable control. His backing band employs the same discretion, all yielding to one another to create an atmospheric vulnerability in every song.
Bondy’s voice and lyricism are what affects his listeners most deeply in the end, and he ably delivered throughout the show, relying most heavily on songs from his newest album, Believers, and playing older tracks like “Mightiest of Guns” to crowd cheers. These songs clearly mean something to people and it was evident that they meant even more to be heard live. A.A. Bondy is not a contradiction, but rather a complete and rewarding performer.