Reviews

As Tall As Lions: 30 June 2009 - New York

Although the band demonstrate musical versatility and dexterity, they also draw attention to themselves in a way that is visually intense.

As Tall As Lions

As Tall As Lions

City: New York
Venue: Bowery Ballroom
Date: 2009-06-30

As Tall As Lions managed to sell out Bowery Ballroom, and although the band told the audience they couldn’t believe it, the roaring crowd consistently gave the impression that they were watching U2 at Giants stadium.

Accompanied on a few songs by a chorus of singers clad in white who contributed understated vocal harmonies, the band’s set offered a varied mix of songs, some of which hinged on lead singer Dan Nigro’s acrobatic vocals while others embodied a free-wheeling jam-bandesque carnival on stage. When the multi-member hippie choral faction -- nicknamed “the hotties” -- was on stage, the vibe was one of a disorganized musical festival, albeit a casual and welcoming one.

Nigro explained, “We’re not hot, so we put hot people on stage with us.” The joke might have been funny if the acoustics had been different, but the sound contributed by “the hotties” was in fact so subtle that they really did seem to be there for mere show. The white outfits they wore, not to mention their bare feet and the fact that some of the members had beards, led some members of the crowd to scream, “We love sexy Jesus.” The choral group also seemed amused by their own presence on stage.

Musically, for the most part, As Tall As Lions embodies the necessary components of a modern indie band. Most of their lyrics were startlingly simple, the repetition of lines like “gone gone gone” and other disgruntled, yet earnest teenage-esque choruses like “wake me up when it’s all over.” It isn’t surprising given the simplicity of the music that the crowd was able to sing along without fail throughout the show. On the other hand, the audience’s wild enthusiasm also bears testament to the band’s ability to garner a devoted fan base. Not only did almost the entire crowd know every single word to every song, they also readily clapped along with many of them.

The band did announce a segment where they played a few new songs, some of which featured a jazzy sounding piano that marked a more eclectic approach to their songwriting. The new songs were slinkier and perhaps less crowd-friendly -- at the very least they lacked some of the aesthetic staples that define the alternative pop sound of their many earlier songs. But what was most interesting about As Tall As Lions was that, even with all the usual musical ingredients, they still brought a different tone, sound, and essence to the songs.

Although the band demonstrate musical versatility and dexterity, they also draw attention to themselves in a way that is visually intense. At times, Julio Tavarez’s frenetic, karate-like dance moves seemed more of a focus than his bass playing. He also seemed very off in his own world; at times I wasn’t sure if his dancing matched the music.

But the band, overall, makes its mark by not following the rules. The music is largely basic, but its refusal to conform to genre is what gives it its individuality. The most transparently experimental move they tried was singing through a megaphone, and although the warped sound was interesting, it felt like a bit of a cheap trick.

Notably, drummer Cliff Sarcona supplied a beat that was able to both befriend the crowd and sustain the band. Drummers have the advantage of often getting to exist in their own world, and Sarcona played from a glass encasement off-center, stage left. He was able to be removed from some of the adolescent intensity of the three front men, as were the trumpet and synth players. Guitarist Saen Fitzgerald also played a more subdued role from his post stage right. Of the three front men, he seemed the most focused on his music.

All in all, the band seemed mostly there to have fun and delight the crowd. Each member contributed a unique piece to that effort, and from appearances, they seemed to succeed in both endeavors.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".

Music

The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?

Music

Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.

Music

Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

Music

Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.

Music

Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.

Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.