Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer shows...Veils and Depeche Mode...

Thought I'd digress a little to mention a couple summer shows I went to this weekend. On Friday night, I had the pleasure of finally seeing the Veils playing a small bar to a crowd of about 100. Finn Andrews (son of Barry of the legendary Shriekback) and his backing band put on an incendiary short set, sandwiched in between some folkies and alterna rockers I really wasn't much interested in. For about 40 minutes, the Veils hit many of the highlights from their most recent two albums, Sun Gangs and Nux Vomica, both great in content and style. I was surprised at how Finn's raspy vocals are quite similar to the way they appear on record, and how tightly wound his performances were. "Jesus for the Jugular" and "Larkspur" in particular were given ample time to breathe and surge, and although the band kept asking for more volume, the mix was pretty good for a tiny bar show, and at $10 a ticket, one really couldn't go wrong. The band played with the ferocity and passion of a young group that hungers for greater success, and there really is no reason why they couldn't approach the levels Kings of Leon are currently experiencing. Only the guy in front of me, who was about 6'2", was a distraction due to the rather inappropriate ass-wiggling he would resort to during the catchier songs. Finn did ask the audience at one point to please buy a CD at the merch table if they liked what they heard, as they would need to pay for their transport back to the UK. Then his female bass player went to run the merch table after their set--now that's putting your people to work. Still, a great show from a band who deserves more attention.

Saturday night was spent at a Depeche Mode concert in Atlantic City, and while I have always been a big fan of this band, things are beginning to feel a bit stale. As I expected, many of the songs from the latest album, Sounds of the Universe, seemed at once lackluster and all too familiar, with only "Wrong" rising above the average. That being said, the mix on these songs was pretty bad, especially on "Come Back", where the band seemed to be making up for a lack of depth in material with a din not befitting one of the best electronic bands in the world. "Hole to Feed" was even more dire, as the jittery rhythm did not translate in such a large room, sounding somewhat like a cat that was being beaten in a burlap bag with a stick. Unfortunately, that rattling continued during "Walking in My Shoes", one of my favorites, and not wanting of the banging-a-stick treatment. That being said, Martin turned in a truly amazing tear-jerk of a performance on an acoustic "Question of Lust" that was absolutely note-perfect and free of Mariah Carey-isms. Unfortunately, it had to follow "Jezebel", a good enough song on the new album, yet which the audience found totally superfluous, and began filing out for a break while Dave was offstage. The other hits were familiar performances of songs they have done several times, with only "Fly on the Windscreen" being a somewhat left-field choice of cult classic. Other than that, the outfits were the same, the stage presence the same (what does Andy Fletcher really DO?), and the times at which Dave removes articles of clothing while interjecting "woah!" the same (why does he feel it necessary to sing so much more nasal on stage than on album? It causes him to slide off pitch a lot--though it's not as bad as Tori Amos' vowel massaging, but still...)

While it was nice to see Dave healthy again after the cancer operation, I have to register my complaints with the venue. The Borgata was HOT. I don't know if the band wanted it this way, but I saw a woman collapse from heat after a mere 10 minutes. It is one thing to keep a venue warm (hello Madonna) and another to turn off all ventilation so the air stagnates. My wife was absolutely drenched by evening's end, and the B.O. in the room was simply intense. At least TURN ON A DAMN FAN. All the cooler air seemed to be drifting in from the casino, which is surely where they wanted you to go afterwards, but my wife, who was ready with her cash, changed her mind and decided to leave early because the heat made her so miserable that she didn't want to hang around. The other issue was the standing room only, which is understandable for a $10 ticket in a bar, but when you are paying $125 each ticket for a room nearing 90 degrees, it makes the band look bad and the venue worse. I would not have called it a "fun night at the Borgata" by any stretch, and will not be going back any time soon. That being said, there were some crazy dance moves and hand gestures being perpetrated by the audience, but some were getting out of control, as I witnessed one guy nearly trample a 7-year old with his flailing aerobics.

All in all, it was quite a weekend mix of music, and now I just need some sleep. I will let you decide which show, the $10 one or the $125 one, I enjoyed more, and who I will be more inclined to see again.