Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lucinda Black Bear @ 92Y Tribeca 11/5 Concert Review

Last Friday I was fortunate enough to be invited to Lucinda Black Bear’s record release party for their second album “Knives” at 92Y Tribeca. After a long trudge through the deserted yet posh streets of Tribeca, I found myself in one of the strangest venues I’ve ever been to.

Situated deep in the bowels of a minimalist concrete and glass building that housed a sleek art exhibit, café, and bar, the stage was cold and alienating as it was set in a cavernous room with bare concrete floors and Spartan bleach white walls.

Lacking warmth and infinite in its solitude, the barren hall seemed to be a fitting backdrop to Christian Gibb’s mournful vocals. The seated café style arrangement before the stage lent a hushed air of introspective thought and quiet contemplation to the sorrowful lyrics.

Despite the stultifying venue, the band found a way to connect with the audience with a dazzling display of carefully honed musicianship. Playing a mix of songs from their first album as well as their latest release, these Indie folk rockers masterfully shifted between various styles in the span of a single beat. Transitioning smoothly between soft spoken folk, to twangy blues, and even anthemic rock, LBB showcased their ability to manipulate emotions and shift moods like a bi-polar woman on her period.

Perhaps, nowhere else was this more apparent than on “Suffocation Blues.” Fantastic melancholy blues would give way to foot stomping crescendos before immediately quieting down to a sullen blues once more.

This ability to create these seismic shifts emotionally is testament to the band’s skill in building intricately textured soundscapes with gorgeous string arrangements by Chad Hammer and Gillian Rivers (who has also contributed her talents to MGMT and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Together, they not only arranged the strings, but meticulously positioned the strings on each track during the mixing and mastering of the album.

Needless to say, the band played a fantastic set, ending it with a series of epic dizzying head banging solos and energized cymbal crashes. For their encore, they played an amazing cover of Springsteen’s “Born to Run” from their previous album, adding a quiet twang and poetic dimension to the song.

For such a stellar performance, the seated audience at café tables made the show feel austere and removed. Frustratingly, polite applause and silent nods of approval dominated the evening instead of the thundering cheers and enthusiastic nods (seeing as no one dances at Indie shows anymore) that the band deserved.

In sum, Lucinda Black Bear’s carefully constructed songs are even more impressive live as one is able to see the infinite care in which they create their lush and deeply layered music. Carefully orchestrated, beautifully conducted, and thought-provokingly sincere, these Brooklyn indie-folk rockers know exactly what they are doing. The only downside was the harsh seated venue, which the band bravely overcame through sheer force of talent.

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