LIVE REVIEW: Chelsea Wolfe @ Irving Plaza

If in the past Chelsea Wolfe has been called a “siren” and a “goddess,” atop the stage at Irving Plaza on Tuesday she was a towering banshee. Swathed in lengths of white cotton – with matching, armpit-high gauntlets, might I add – Wolfe commanded the sold-out crowd with pointed intensity. Wolfe’s tour comes hot on the heels of her 2017 LP Hiss Spun, and by the looks of ticket sales and the gargantuan purple tour bus parked outside Irving Plaza, must be going quite well.

Hiss Spun is Wolfe’s latest offering on longtime label Sargent House. The record is deeply varied, textural, and above all else: heavy. Part of Wolfe’s allure is her ability to craft dark and gruesome instrumental landscapes – often craggy and unwelcoming – and then invite the listener in with her radiant voice. It is a contrast that bodes surprisingly well live. Wolfe is one of those singers whose live vocals not only do the record justice – they sound better, somehow, in person.

As one would hope, Wolfe is an austere performer; she barely says a word between songs. Her black-clad backing band do their work with fervor and excitement, but never distract from the great white witch at center stage, piercing us with charcoal-rimmed eyes. They played a generous hour-plus set, bookending favorites from previous records, like “Carrion Flowers” and “Feral Love,” with material from Hiss Spun.

Wolfe treated us to a two-song encore, beginning with a solo acoustic performance of “Halfsleeper,” from her 2010 debut. Her isolated voice was all the more staggering, and even spooky given the season. It was only then that I noticed a large black “sun” suspended above her like a dark totem. Soon Wolfe’s band rejoined her, plunging into the heady sendoff of “Scrape,” awash in distortion. As she floated off the stage, it was apparent that Chelsea Wolfe’s performances allow her to embody many things – she’s a siren, goddess, and banshee all at once.

LIVE REVIEW: Taking Back Sunday at Irving Plaza


In high school, I heard from all my friends that Taking Back Sunday was the best show they had ever seen. They raved and bragged, and yet, I never saw them live myself. It was one of my biggest regrets—until now. On September 30, I finally saw Taking Back Sunday perform at Irving Plaza.

Now, my expectations were exceedingly high, so perhaps they were destined to fall short. But as thrilled as I was to relive my emo days, the first half of the show left me a bit bored and uninterested. Once they played the songs from Tell all Your Friends and Louder Now, I got my second wind and felt revitalized by the show. However, the first half had me feeling somewhat sleepy and disconnected.


TBS released their newest album, Tidal Wave, this year. And while I didn’t completely study up and try to memorize every song, that’s mostly because I was pretty turned off by it upon first listen. To me, it sounded like a forced attempt at punk, and the tracks I heard fell flat. But I missed the screaming, and I missed the broken hearts worn on sleeves. Mostly I missed the Taking Back Sunday of the early 2000s.


When they sang their older tracks, you could hardly hear frontman Adam Lazzara sing as he was drowned out by the enthusiastic crowd. “MakeDamnSure.” “Cute Without the ‘E.'” “There’s No ‘I’ in Team.” “You’re So Last Summer.” The old classics struck as if it were 2004 and we were all brushing up on Fuse before heading to the show. And, of course, the mic swings were there.

Overall, unfortunately, it wasn’t the best show I’d ever seen in 2016, but I’m confident that if I had seen in back in their heyday, it probably would’ve gone down in my concert-going history as an all-time best.


Remind yourself of “You’re So Last Summer” below.

LIVE REVIEW: Temples @ Irving Plaza

If a monster spit out the color wheel across the sparkling night sky, you would see what it was to experience Temples live. Before they travel back to tour in Europe for the winter, the band graced Irving Plaza Monday with an excessively stellar performance.
Hailing from Kettering, England, the four lads sound like the 60’s psychedelic rock revival but with their own gust of sounds and breaks topped with a goddamn subtle attitude. Seeing them on stage with fascinating jewelry, fringed shirts and dazzling hair prove they know how to rock their style hard.
Irving Plaza remained in a velvety psychedelic dimension as the London mates seamlessly strung together their set. “A Question Isn’t Answered” marked when I helplessly fell into a coma, seduced by James Edward Bagshaw’s melodic posture. My mind was dissected by the euphoric guitar riffs and keyboard of Adam Smith, while Thomas Edward, James Walmsley and Samuel Lloyd Toms’ bass and drumming held structure of the glossy performance. The audience fell in a trance while “Prisms” took hold of our consciousness. As if the purple and green light show wasn’t electrifying enough, the projection screen behind them with reflections of colors, oily and ever-changing bubbles provided an additional escape from the norm.
Watching Temples is unlike any performance you can experience live. In addition to their elegant sound, their lyrics embody what you see and feel. The sounds of Temples is incomplete without “Ankh’s,” “Future’s changed, visions change. Visions of you, make the vision of me seem so in touch with only to see.” It’s hard to digest songs so beautiful accompanied by lyrical poetry and visions of glowing intensities. Instrumental balance is important to them as well, never dulling the sound yet keeping an ethereal melodic neutrality.
My only qualm was the set felt too short, leaving me with a withdrawal craving an extended encore. Remarkably vivid, intense and nourishing, I’m hoping for more material from Temples soon. Besides all the impressive projections accompanying the lights and outfits, Temples has the power to transcend music. They are classic yet authentically new, the purest genius of current psychedelic sound.
Salute to Heavenly Records, who allow the quartet to remain their bona-fide trippy selves.
They have only been on the music scene for two years, but they already have much under their studded belts. Cemented stardom in England, they’ve created buzz in the U.S. in reaction to their performance at Coachella this year. I’m hoping Temples will be spinning more on our home soil soon. Unfortunately, you missed your chance to experience their mind-bending live performance, unless you happen to be in Brighton or Manchester this winter. If not, submerge yourself in Sun Structures, the kaleidoscope they created for your viewing.

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1. “Sun Structures”
2. “A Question Isn’t Answered”
3. “The Golden Throne”
4. “Prisms”
5. “Colours To Life”
6. “Ankh”
7. “Move With The Season”
8. “Keep In The Dark”
9. “Sand Dance”
10. “Shelter Song”
11. “Mesmerise”
temples live pic


LIVE REVIEW: Asaf Avidan at Irving Plaza

Asaf Avidan Irving

The first time I heard Asaf Avidan’s recordings I was blown away but also unsure of what to think.  An arm’s length from the core of what I normally listen to, Avidan’s music exists in a bluesy folk realm that can sometimes feel derivative of those that came before.  But I appreciated the boundaries that last year’s Different Pulses seemed to push against, and I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around the impassioned, androgynous vocals.  I had to see someone actually singing those sounds to believe they came from a human being, rather than, say, the witch-cursed oak trees in Wizard of Oz.  The ones who threw apples at Dorothy.

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Asaf Avidan Irving Plaza
Asaf Avidan at Irving Plaza. Photo by Sofia Elamrani (Instagram: @sofiaelamrani)

Avidan is a wiry Israeli guy who worked for years as an animator before a difficult break-up with a longtime girlfriend caused him to pick up a guitar and begin writing songs.  In one of several stories he shared with audiences attending his show at Irving Plaza on Friday, he described this love as “geological,” comparing it to the shifting of tectonic plates.  Instead of mountain ranges, a rift grew between the two, spurring his career as a musician.  He began it as leader of Asaf Avidan & the Mojos, releasing three albums over a period of seven years, before striking out solo.  Different Pulses is his first proper solo album, following up a collection of live acoustic songs entitled Avidan in a Box.  It couldn’t have dropped at a better time; an unauthorized EDM remix of “One Day (Reckoning Song)” by German DJ Wankelmut was making the rounds, expanding Avidan’s already healthy fanbase.  It grew so popular that Avidan’s label eventually pursued its legal release, and though the track had been used without permission initially, it ended up being a boon for Avidan.

At Irving Plaza, he played selections spanning his entire catalogue, including “Hangwoman” “Your Anchor” “Out in the Cold” and a few that have yet to see release.  While the acoustic numbers were a great backdrop for his powerhouse vocals, the most intriguing tunes in the set were built from loops, allowing Avidan to expand his acoustic sound with percussion, keys, and kazoos, among other instruments.  These churning, sensuous offerings had a captivating effect on an otherwise restless crowd – plenty of folks in the audience saw fit to carry on conversations so loud that widespread “Shhhhing” occurred during an admittedly long-winded retelling of David and Bathsheba.  Avidan, it seems, doesn’t believe in stage banter so much as sharing stories to introduce his songs, a move which started to feel a bit superfluous.  Mentioning that he read the Bible as literature or that time is an arbitrary construct felt almost cheap alongside songs that are so verbose and grandly imagined; any impatience on the part of the audience was likely rooted in the fact that everyone just wanted to hear more music.

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Asaf Avidan Irving Plaza
Asaf Avidan at Irving Plaza. Photo by Sofia Elamrani (Instagram: @sofiaelamrani)

And truly, it’s a difficult thing to wait and see what Avidan’s next move will be.  He’s proven his brilliance as a songwriter and performer, and indistinctly gendered vocals are having a bit of a moment (Rhye comes to mind; they played down the street at Webster Hall that same evening).  Avidan stands out for his rawness, his intense delivery part and parcel to the artistry with which he composes his material.  Avidan’s work is in every way driven by an exploration of the possibilities inherent in music making, while the timeless qualities of his music ensure that he’ll be making it for a long time to come.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Built to Spill 11/07

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a music reviewer, when you get the chance to attend a concert for well known rockers at a legendary rock venue, you don’t exactly turn down the opportunity. And I’m so glad I said yes to seeing Built to Spill play Irving Plaza last Thursday. While the band isn’t one that I follow particularly closely, they are one of only a handful of bands I’ve seen live more than once. The first time was as an opener for Kings of Leon (this was pre Caleb Followill meltdown/rehab/wife/baby situation, as in, right before they cancelled their tour in 2010) and I was surprised at how well they played live and the unique tone of vocalist Doug Martsch. Naturally, after that concert, I went home and downloaded a ton of their music, which I listened to for a few weeks and then drifted off to other bands. After receiving the news that I would be seeing them, I dug into my iTunes for those tracks I had saved and rediscovered what had originally caught my attention the first time I saw them play live. Needless to say, I recognized that the show at Irving would be awesome.

Opener Slam Dunk started the night with its cool brand of pop rock. The Canadian natives sounded uniform and their songs were interesting to listen to. They were a great pick to get the crowd amped for the concert to come, and played a lively set. However, they were followed by the less than impressive The Warm Hair, the lead singer for whom appeared to be attempting to hold onto younger days when he tore up the stage, under the influence of unknown substance, the effects of which show clearly on him in the present day. He entered barefoot with his denim shirt unbuttoned, revealing a skinny, bony chest. His long, frizzy hair seemed to be an unspoken mascot for the band name and he often mumbled incoherent ramblings about his muse, for whom he wrote what seemed to be most of the songs. By the end of their performance, several people in the audience were shouting for Built to Spill to hurry up and come out already.

Luckily, Built to Spill did eventually take the stage to save what had become a very awkward performance. As I had previously predicted, it was a great show. Martsch still has the ability to capture the room and the band followed suit, keeping up with the energy. I don’t know many of the songs by heart, but jammed along when they played familiar hits such as “Strange,” “Liar,” “Reasons,” and “Carry the Zero.” My only complaint was that several of the instrumental breaks got a little carried away. However, as that’s worst thing that happened during their performance, it is easily forgivable. As I watched Martsch perform, I remembered his signature performance style. He wags his head side to side while singing and juts his right knee up and down while playing his guitar in swift, unison motions. It looks difficult and tiring to perform this way, but it works for him and feels seamless with who he is. Without this usual feature, the performance would look almost alien.

Built to Spill fans proved themselves fiercely loyal to the band, chanting along with song lyrics and showing wells of enthusiasm for the ’90s rockers. Despite their lack of current work, they have a steady following, and are content to continue performing their favorite songs from both 2009’s There is No Enemy as well as older releases. When they finally walked off after their last song, the audience showed they  hadn’t had enough. While most performances end with cries for encores, the sincerity of the crowd’s request for more music was remarkably earnest. The band had already surpassed its allotted time, but no one seemed disappointed with the opportunity to hear more. They ended with my favorite song — and the only one I know all the words to — “Car,” from 1994’s Their’s Nothing Wrong with Love: a great ending to a great show.

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SHOW REVIEW: The Jesus And Mary Chain

Not shockingly the Jesus And Mary Chain concert a few weeks back felt like a strange clash of generations; a milieu whose parameters constantly shift and become obscured by its inhabitants’ conflicting schemata, or really, their respective ideologies around music.

Attending the show were those who remember Jesus And Mary Chain as a group of kids from the early 80s who would sneak into venues and fool sound engineers into thinking they were the opening act for the night, play a set, and then quietly leave. Or those who’ve been fans for decades, and who saw them in 1985 at North London Polytechnic right before they became huge. There were those who discovered them in the 90s during an angsty teen phase, perhaps, after Stoned And Dethroned came out and everybody had a crush on Hope Sandoval. And then of course, we were there in hoards: ah yes, the Millennials, who more than likely started listening to them during sophomore year of high school in 2000, well after the band’s hay day was up. By then, their music had taken on a new meaning, and was no longer shaped by the sociocultural context into which it was born, but rather occupied an ineffable gray area, one in particular, that exists between the realms of nostalgia and reinvention.

In the year 2000, we listened to JAMC albums not because they were novel for whatever reason, and not because they represented something bygone that we never got to know or apprehend. We were too young for the former and too old for the latter. We listened because the songs are timeless. Boring, a bit, but ever so resonant.

Removed from the culture that inspired their creation though, they both lose and gain certain dimensions, thus allowing for new ways of experiencing them. Which is what it’s all about, right? This is what separates music that is bound to its age from that which lives, and continues to influence and herald trends to come. My early experience with the albums was one of deep, and in hindsight stupid confusion, about why all the guitars sounded so loud. Then I came across tracks that transcended my distaste for noise rock, like “The Hardest Walk”, for instance, which follows a simple and pretty accessible chord progression, but contains endless seeming layers of heavy distortion. It wasn’t grunge music because there was no yelling, really. It wasn’t new wave because there wasn’t tons of synth. It wasn’t anything that sounded like what “the future” would bring, i.e. all the electronic music I was listening to. There was no band to go see, to make it all more palpable. Yeah, I was confused, but I found the space for it, and subsequently developed a more generous understanding and appreciation for their sound.

I didn’t start loving their songs until 2003, when Lost In Translation came out. I needn’t say much, I’m sure. But the first time I saw the final scene, as she’s walking away and the opening chords of “Just Like Honey” start, with that marching drum beat, as Bill Murray’s character catches up to her, and whispers into her ear, and Jim Reid’s ethereal voice starts singing the first line, about taking on the world…I cried through the entire closing credits. It was that moment when the songs acquired  context for me.

In any case, I still hadn’t actually SEEN this band until two weeks ago. They don’t release new albums. They don’t tour. I had always thought they were done. So I was excited, but had no idea what to expect. Their music had always been detached from even the idea of  live performance.

We got to Iriving Plaza, which unfortunately is my absolute LEAST favorite venue in NYC, and walked up stairs to the stage. The opening act, Psychic Paramount was playing  their set, shrouded in a haze of red fog, so heavy you couldn’t see any band members. Though I do like their recent album, I didn’t like how they sounded live because there was too much noise and no cohesion, and the mix in that room is always so muddy, it made it impossible to really hear anything.

Finally after what felt like eons, JAMC came on, Obscured by billows of multicolored smoke, apparitional, like ghosts of times past. It was exactly how I had always pictured them. They opened with “Between Planets”, which sounded pretty good for the most part, save some excruciating (for those of us with sensitive ears) feedback issues coming from the lead guitar, that ended up persisting for the whole show, that made me want to jump up onto stage and reposition the entire mic and speaker setup (please refer back to “Irving Plaza is my least favorite venue in NYC”). It ultimately didn’t distract too much from the songs, however, which sounded nearly identical to the studio recordings. This can be a good thing, because people generally like consistency,  and it demonstrates the band’s technical competence as musicians, but it can also be a bad thing. It can make the music sound formulaic and monotonous even to those who are playing it. This, if anything, is my one criticism of their performance. There were times when they seemed on autopilot, or maybe even a little bored with themselves. Also, Reid forgot the lyrics to “Happy When It Rains”.

They’re lack of energy aside, it was a cool night. The woman who accompanied them on “Sometimes Always” and “Just Like Honey” had a great voice, and brought a vibe to the stage and to the songs that made both duets highlights of the show. They mostly played tracks from Darklands and Automatic, saving the louder, more raucous and distorted jams of Psychocandy and Honey’s Dead for the encore, during which I almost got trampled to death, when the theretofore mellow crowd started a circle pit in which I found myself. Up until that point I had pretty much forgotten how truly fanatical people are about this band. It was both heartwarming and a little scary.

Throughout the entire night, all I could keep thinking was that even as I watched them play, I’ve listened to their songs so many  times without having a notion about what they’re like as a live band, that I couldn’t get specific references out of my head, that the tunes have always elicited–certain people, places, smells, drinks, etc.

And this alone made the whole thing so worth it.