May 2013 21

New York City, NY, Irving Plaza, 04/26/2013

 

The words “rock n’ roll” have been used in many forms since first being coined in the early ’20s. Originally referring to blues-based music with a strong backbeat, the term has become a catch-all that most (serious) music fans understand has far more to do with the attitude and approach of a performer than whatever sounds may come as a result. While IAMX, with its deeply introspective lyrics, lithe vocals and layered electronics, may not be one’s typical point of reference for rock n’ roll, this writer can think of no better term to describe the band’s recent performance at New York City’s Irving Plaza.

 

Having been absent from the US live music scene for far too long, the tension in the crowd was apparent before even entering the venue. Burnt-out rave vets with thinning bleached hair, posh and posturing hipsters, goths of yesteryear and today eyeing each other suspiciously, the line snaking around Irving Plaza was certainly a motley one. As disparate as the crowd may have been, there was one unifying theme: a look of pure excitement. (Okay, maybe two if you’re counting skinny jeans, but I digress.)

 

This writer is not here to advocate or expound on concert venues, but setting is important and Irving Plaza, with its moody lighting, served perfectly. The crowd filed in quietly, grabbed the first of many overpriced drinks, and staked out spots from which to view the evening’s festivities. The mood was generally jovial and eager, but, alas, no triumph is without sacrifice and this evening’s came in the form of a largely monotonous opening DJ set that seemed to stretch on forever. Despite this, the crowd made the best of it, nodding to the beat and engaging each other in pleasantries.

 

Chris Corner’s tiny frame appeared before a thunderous wall of screams looking equal parts Bowie, Willy Wonka, and old-west mortician with a feathered top hat, high-shouldered waist coat, and skin-tight leather pants. He and his band wasted no time, launching immediately into “Animal Impulses” off the newest release. Volleying off the cabaret drums, Corner’s howling vocals seemed to shake the walls, exclaiming “There’s a cold breeze blowing over my soul!” There was nary a mouth that failed to mouth ever nuanced lyric for the new track, and indeed, everything that should follow. Following this with the slower, haunting “Sorrow” was an unexpected but nonetheless wise choice for Corner and his cohorts. Live keyboardist Janine Gezang’s backing vocals were no less impressive than Corner’s lead and were on full display here. The few voices in the crowd not already singing themselves hoarse joined in on the next number, “Kiss and Swallow,” which is arguably one of the project’s most recognizable tracks. Pausing only briefly to greet the crowd, Corner tipped his top hat like the emissary of dreams and expressed his joy in returning to NYC. The screams and applause that followed seemed to humble even he of the soaring voice and his self-satisfied smile was hard to miss. All sharp angles and grand posture, Corner and his band pulled a mesmerized crowd through “Kingdom of Welcome Addiction” and immediately into “Tear Garden,” which featured an impressive tradeoff on drums between Corner and multi-instrumentalist Alberto Alvarez. Though Imogen Heap was not present to sing her parts of “Secret Friend,” the song did not suffer, with Gezang once again providing superb backing vocals along with her frantic keyboards and crowd interaction. Though the title track from Unified Field is very new, it stood as a clear high point to a show with many peaks. The crowd nearly overpowered Corner’s voice as he sang “We are one in the Unified Field” and there was a sense that he was genuinely on to something at that particular moment. The feeling of elation did not die down as the set progressed through “Cold Red Light,” “Walk with the Noise,” “Music People,” which featured Corner playing a handheld keg drum, and “The Alternative.”

 

By the time of the first encore, the crowd and band were moist with a well earned sweat. As soon as the opening notes of “I Come with Knives” came in, band and crowd alike were reenergized. By the second encore, “Nightlife,” all in attendance were worn out physically and emotionally. The track could not have been a more fitting commentary on the events that had just transpired, and by its completion, all were in silent agreement. All had truly touched a little piece of “rock n’ roll.”

 

Richard Reich (DJRichardReich)
Photography by Beau Brendt, courtesy of Studio BeauZBub

 

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