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Concert Reviews

    VNV Nation / Straftanz: 10 December 2011

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    Live Act(s): VNV Nation / Straftanz (@)
    Event Date: 10 December 2011
    Type of Event: Small Club Concert
    Venue: The Trocadero Theatre (@)
    Rated: * * * * *
    Arriving to the Trocadero in downtown Philadelphia, I had to appreciate the size of the place; VNV Nation always puts on a strong show, but they are especially engaging in smaller venues like the Troc where they can interact with the audience a little more easily. The 19th century vintage opera-house-turned-concert-hall was no exception, and the balcony was even wrapped with Christmas lights, which frontman Ronan Harris joked were for the ravers in the crowd.

    The setlist started with some of the band's older tracks, but was quickly sprinkled with songs off their most recent album, Automation, which was released earlier this year in October. 'Control,' and 'Space & Time' are probably the most danceable new tracks, which went well with the large electronic lighting panels that were the backdrop for the show and pulsed in time to the music. 'Nova (Shine a Light on Me)' was more emotional, and in line with their earlier songs 'Beloved' and 'Illusion,' both of which they performed as well.

    As is their tradition, VNV came back for an encore after leaving the stage the first time and started back up with 'Legion,' a welcome throwback from the band's 1999 album Empires. That was followed by 'Joy,' and 'Standing,' and ended with 'Perpetual,' while the audience chanted the last line of the song.

    One of the highlights of the night was the after-party with the band in the venue's upstairs bar, which featured the hard-driving sets of Philadelphia regular DJ Mighty Mike Saga, which had many people dancing despite the tiny size of the dance floor, and the space in general.

      Peter Murphy / She Wants Revenge / The Hussle Club: 16 November 2011

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      Live Act(s): Peter Murphy / She Wants Revenge / The Hussle Club
      Event Date: 16 November 2011
      Type of Event: Small Club Concert
      Venue: 9:30 Club (@)
      Rated: * * * * *
      It was a damp night in DC, and even for a late show on a weekday, a good crowd (if not a full house) was already in place at the 9:30 Club as the first act went on, warming up the crowd for headliner Peter Murphy and She Wants Revenge.

      The Hussle Club didn't disappoint - a newish band citing 'life' as its main influence, it got things going with a collection of fast-paced tracks that had people dancing even as most were wandering in or getting drinks. Listening to the quick tempo of the music and the gravelly vocals, it was clear that the 'Godfather of Goth' was probably a strong influence on the band's inspiration.

      She Wants Revenge took the stage next and played a strong set, mixing the old favorites such as 'Tear You Apart' and 'These Things' with new material from their latest album Valleyheart, which came out earlier this year. With its hypnotic, penetrating beat and throaty vocals, the California-based band was a logical pairing with Peter Murphy and by the time they walked off the stage, the crowd was charged, if sweaty.

      Peter Murphy's setlist and energy onstage was impressive, but the best thing about the show was the length of it; for such a seasoned, iconic performer, it would have been easy to play the usual mix of the most popular songs and call it a night. There were many hits that he did play, such as 'Cuts You Up' and 'I'll Fall With Your Knife' but he also performed others that one rarely hears in clubs anymore, a nod to longtime fans.

      Tracks from his newest album, Ninth, released this past October, were also debuted at the show; 'I Spit Roses' and 'Uneven and Brittle,' are two especially good tracks off the album.

        The Lords of Acid: 24 March 2011

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        Live Act(s): The Lords of Acid
        Event Date: 24 March 2011
        Type of Event: Small Club Concert
        Venue: Emo's
        Rated: * * * * *
        The Lords of Acid Sonicangel Tour hit Emo's in Austin, TX on Thursday, just a few short days after SXSW packed up. The usual superlatives could be used to describe this show--electric, exciting, crazy, on fire, outrageous--but, none fit as good as the word "fun." From the moment Praga Kahn stepped on stage and flashed his big smile you knew that The Lords of Acid show was going to be fun. And they did not disappoint. What we experienced for the next 90 minutes was more of a party than a concert.

        From the opening song, "Drink My Honey" through the end of the encore, "LSD=Truth" the stage was a constant flurry of activity with dancers, silly string, dildos and audience members. There seriously was a lot going on. DJ Mea, was sexy in her black, studded outfit as she played ringleader, occasionally shot the audience with Silly String and grinded on girls from the audience. Murv3 bounced and ran across the stage with seemingly boundless energy. DJ Mea and Murv3 were chasing and licking each other. Kirk was constantly up from behind the drums to talk to Praga between songs or to give a bandmate a congratulatory hug. Audience members kept appearing on stage, some hand-picked by DJ Mea to interact with her one-on-one, and others in groups to participate in songs like "Pussy" and "Spank." Even the band's stage hands and road crew came on stage to participate in the madness. The merch guy was a featured player during the first encore, "Bunny Vibrator," as he bounced across the stage like a rabbit while DJ Mea chased him with a vibrator. The stage hands even had their own thing going on, teasing and toying with the band while they were playing their songs.

        As fun as all that was, there really was music going on, and all of it well done. What we've come to expect from electronic groups is one or two guys with a couple laptops, a MIDI controller and a microphone; not a lot of actual music being created on stage so much as it is karaoke. The Lords of Acid is not that electronic group. The Lords of Acid is a band of some very talented musicians. Praga Khan, the band leader and keyboard player was doing something you don't see keyboard players do any more--he was playing keys! He wasn't just triggering samples here and there. He was actually playing chords, lines and melodies using his keyboards. Murv3 laid down some real heavy, in the pocket bass grooves all while bouncing around like a madman. Kirk Salvador on drums had some very cool, and fun drum parts to play. You could see he was really having a good time improvising against the occasional drum loop. And he has the longest reach for cymbals I've ever seen. Kirk's cymbals were all almost set perpendicular to the ground about 3 feet above his head. He had to kind of jump out of his seat to reach them. Virus seemed underutilized on guitar, they weren't playing guitar-driven songs. There were some stand-out moments occasionally when a song broke down for to play a clean, bell-like part. But, otherwise, when he wasn't playing he did a lot of walking ominously around the stage. There seemed to be some concern amongst fans about DJ Mea as the new lead singer, but I think all that got laid to rest when she sang her first notes on "Stripper." The Lords of Acid songs are all about sex and having fun, and DJ Mea's voice was sexy and fun, and fit the band nicely. DJ Mea was joined by Praga on background vocals for a lot of songs, and the two of them sounded really good together.

        From the beginning of the night you could see how tired and exhausted some of the crowd were; most likely from being worn ragged by SXSW. But it was great to see that The Lords of Acid, and their exciting and fun music was able to energize this sleepy crown and ultimately get them on their feet dancing.

          itsnotyouitsme (Grey McMurray/Caleb Burhans/Theo Bleckmann/Skúli Sverrisson): 2 December 2010

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          Live Act(s): itsnotyouitsme (Grey McMurray/Caleb Burhans/Theo Bleckmann/Skúli Sverrisson)
          Event Date: 2 December 2010
          Type of Event: Small Club Concert
          Venue: The Stone
          Rated: * * * * *
          itsnotyouitsme is the impromptu name of one of the many projects these musicians are involved with. I'm a fan of bassist/composer Skúli Sverrisson's work (see the review of his latest CD on these pages) and I had heard of vocalist Theo Bleckmann (who also curated the Stone) but I had never seem him perform. Also Grey McMurray (electric guitar) and Caleb Burhans (violin) joined for the occasion.
          As you might imagine if you know these musicians it was a set of moody, ethereal and relaxed improvised ambient. Skuli worked his pedals and his bass to create the magic he's known for while Theo sang, sampled, pitched, processed and looped his vocals layering them over and over to create intense swoops of sounds or even soloistic background lines that almost sounded like a second violin interacting with what Caleb was doing. And all the meanwhile Grey was forging his purple sounds using the guitar and his delays and other pedals or even no amplification at all (as he did in the very closing notes of the set).
          I really enjoyed the concert a lot and I recommend you go out and try to see Skuli play next time he does. Also support the Stone, the only live music venue in NY for/by musicians!

            Einsturzende Neubauten: 13 November 2010

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            Live Act(s): Einsturzende Neubauten
            Event Date: 13 November 2010
            Type of Event: Big Stage Concert
            Venue: Estragon
            Neubauten and myself have been missing each other by days for years. They don't play in the States that often and every time they played in a European city I was visiting it would be either the week before or the week after my visit. This time finally the stars aligned! I happened to be in Italy on tour with Zorn the same week Neubauten were coming through and their only italian concert(s) were at the Estragon in Bologna so I got tickets for the first night and went. Oh boy what a show!

            Being this Neubauten's 30 year anniversary tour they really went all out and played for a staggering 3 hours! The current line up includes 2 percussionist (N.U. Unruh being one of them), a keyboard/sampler player, a guitarist (Jochen Arbeit) and of course Hacke on bass and Blixa on vocals. The six of them played songs from their entire discography to a packed audience of about 2000 souls. Needless to say the classics made the crowd go wild and the visual impact of what was happening on stage was overwhelming. You just simply can't find another band today that has the type of sound they do and that does it all live. Their research for weird sounds and objects is amazingly creative and unique: who else would think of using a vinyl record mounted on the screw gun and amplified with a paper cup? or the tight and extended spring that when hit sounds like an electronic kick drum? or a bucket full of nails and scrap metal that is slowly emptied from a height of more than 6 feet creating a rain of metallic objects? To think that they've been doing this since 1980 is just mind-boggling!

            Unfortunately I couldn't go to the second show the following night but I've heard from people who went that it consisted in a shorter Neubauten set followed by a few sets of side projects by some EN members. Dulcis in fundus, the band then distributed about 200 drum sticks to the crowd and rolled out moving drum stations so that all attendees could participate in a noise-making hitting fest. Pretty amazing idea and great ending. Too bad I missed that.
            Einsturzende Neubauten is still touring so I highly recommend that you go see them if you can. They should be in the States right about now in fact!

            You can see more pictures of the show taken by local photographer Elena Sartorari here: