LIVE REVIEW: Radical Face at Le Poisson Rouge

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Radical Face at Le Poisson Rouge on Oct. 11.
Radical Face at Le Poisson Rouge on Oct. 11.

“Our tours are cursed,” Radical Face frontman Ben Cooper explained from his position seated in a chair onstage. Elaborating, he detailed a series of misfortunes including surgery on his head and a recent chiropractor visit for his injured back as an apology for his seated state. This opening remark was an unfortunate foreshadowing for the rest of the concert.

Even before Cooper and the band took the stage, the atmosphere at Le Poisson Rogue was uneasy as the audience endured what at first was a promising opener in Johnny Rodgers, who uses reverberating glass recorded on a loop to enhance his songs. However, after the first track, the novelty and impressiveness of this skill wore off and exposed mediocre lyrics and strange, contorted facial expressions Rodgers displayed while performing. By the end of the gig, the buzz of the audience talking rather than listening was apparent.

Then it was Radical Face’s turn to save the show. Crew aided the band in setting up the stage, scattering tiny, electronic candles throughout the equipment and placing a chair directly behind the leading microphone. Unfortunately for Cooper, his injury made it more difficult to connect with the audience, as they could barely see him from his position so close to the ground. He did make an effort, however, to bridge the gap by engaging in conversation with attendees and explaining the meaning behind each song before performing it. On the opposite end, the audience responded in unfunny, unnecessary shouting matches, hopelessly trying to communicate with Cooper, forgetting that they were attending a concert and that dialogue between the artist and the crowd in a packed space is pretty much useless.

In accordance with the “tour curse,” Cooper snapped a string partway through the set and try-too-hard-overdressed-drummer whose name I can’t even remember was recruited to fix the broken string while Cooper covered Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Cooper explained the misfortune by stating, “Nothing we do is planned. We decided you pay money to watch us practice.” The self-deprecation was meant to be humanizing and funny but came off as unprofessional and juvenile. This coincided with occasional jokes about how depressing and dark each of the songs are and declaring all of their romantic relationships unsuccessful. The string replacement itself was an awkward moment that was next filled by the “former professional yo-yo-er” drummer’s yo-yo performance. Sadly, the tricks were the most impressive portion of the show.

The performance continued in the same shaky way it began, with the band not quite sounding like themselves. No one expects artists to sound the same live as they do on recorded albums, but they were so far off the mark it was depressing. Radical Face is by no means a barrier-breaking band, but the greatest strength they possess is that their songs sound so pretty. The live version just doesn’t transfer that sound. The littlest salvation came when the band united as one and jammed out on several tracks, with swooping guitar chords that — albeit simple, basic skills — were effective in rallying the crowd. Crowd-favorite tracks such as “Wrapped in Piano Strings” and “Always Gold” elicited joy and nostalgia from the crowd.

When it came time for Cooper to introduce the band’s most popular track, “Welcome Home,” he declared that he needed some assistance for the crowd to sing along to the chorus: on the recorded track, there are multiple voices present and on stage there is just Cooper’s. He informed the crowd that the drummer “is kind of a dick” and compares each city’s rendition of the song, that they should sing as loudly and as heartfelt as they could. This seemed to convince them to ban together, as many voices filled the small space when the chorus came around. However, not even the nostalgia for the hit and assistance from the crowd could save the performance.

Radical Face gave it their best effort, and they truly did try. Unfortunately, this time it just wasn’t enough.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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