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Posts Tagged ‘dance pop’

(Above: The Arctic Monkeys put their spin on Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand.”)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Five years ago, the Arctic Monkeys arrived on the music scene riding a wave of hype. The influential British music publication the NME ranked the Arctic Monkey’s debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” ahead of the Beatles, Radiohead and the Clash on its list of top 100 British albums.

Monday night the English quintet came to Liberty Hall in Lawrence in support of its third album, “Humbug.” The transitional album didn’t command the propaganda and isn’t as flashy as their first two efforts, but that didn’t stop a nearly full house from rabidly devouring everything the band played.

Over the course of their 80-minute set, the Monkeys delivered more than half of “Humbug,” including a couple B-sides, and half of their second release, 2007’s “Favourite Worst Nightmare.” The contrasting material revealed two very different sides of the band. “Humbug”’s songs, for the most part, are more downbeat, while the cuts from “Nightmare” border on metal.

Opening number “Dance Little Liar” foreshadowed the juxtaposition with a drum cadence lifted from Metallica’s “One.” As the number died down, a bank of strobe lights behind the band kicked on and the group thrashed their way through “Brainstorm” with a performance that wouldn’t have been out of place at Ozzfest.

The band’s approach seemed to be to combine the angular approach of the Talking Heads and Gang of Four with the speed and intensity of Slayer. Slanted guitar lines, surf riffs and plenty of tremolo framed most of the songs. Even at their heaviest, the Monkey’s songs were infused with enough pop hooks to keep the crowd moving, although it was hard to tell if they were dancing or moshing.

Although the newer material was well received, the biggest cheers came for the three numbers from the band’s debut. The opening chords of “Still Take You Home” prompted a big response, and the crowd went nuts during the one-two of “The View from the Afternoon” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.”

Surprisingly those numbers arrived in the middle of the set. After lifting the crowd so high, there was nowhere to go but down, so Alex Turner strapped on an acoustic guitar for the country-tinged “Cornerstone.” Later, a deconstructed reading of Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” rendered the already spooky song in a completely new light.

The Monkey’s performed on a minimalist stage, in front of a plain curtain and a bank of lights raised about 10 feet off the ground by a series of poles. When the lights were on, which was frequent, it created an artificial ceiling and made the mid-sized theater feel like a cramped, sweaty basement.

Bass player Nick O’Malley is the band’s secret weapon. Tucked in the back corner at stage right, he supplied the needed melody underpinning the abstract guitar lines. As Jamie Cook and Andy Nicholsonstrafed the songs from unprecedented angles on their guitars, Malley’s melodic bass lines and Matt Helders’ manic drumming held the performances together.

The set ended with the poppy “Fluorescent Adolescent,” which sounded like a mangled Mod single. The aggressive “Nettles” had the crowd clapping along and featured more false endings than a Beethoven symphony. When the number final ended, the instruments were abandoned buzzing, leaving feedback long after the band had departed.

On the way back to the car, I overheard two fans lamenting that more songs from the first album weren’t performed.

“I guess what we have to remember,” one fan said, trying to console himself, “is that what would be new to us, these guys have been carrying for five years.”

Sleepy Sun: While the Arctic Monkeys focus on delivering tightly crafted, manic singles, opening act Sleepy Sun was content to play spacey, long-form album tracks. The six-piece San Francisco band’s 45-minute set was filled with psychedelic, progressive rock that incorporated more than a hint of Black Sabbath and first-album-era Led Zeppelin. The co-ed lead singers brought a touch of folk to the arrangements, particularly when tambourine, harmonica or acoustic guitars were introduced. Fans of Death Star and the Seven Dwarfs, Black Moth Super Rainbow and the Flaming Lips might want to keep an eye open for their next trip through town.

Setlist: Dance Little Liar > Brainstorm; This House is a Circus; Still Take You Home; Potion Approaching; Joining the Dots; My Propeller; Crying Lightning; The View from the Afternoon; I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor; Cornerstone; Fire and the Thud; Do Me A Favour; Pretty Visitors; Red Right Hand (Nick Cave cover) > If You Were There, Beware; 505. Encore: Fluorescent Adolescent; Nettles.

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(Above: Metric roar through “Dead Disco” in their native Toronto.)

By Joel Francis

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Midland Theater. The opulent 3,500-seat venue has hosted scores of acclaimed performances in its 82-year history. Both Spoon and the Bravery commented on the austere surroundings during their sets at the annual “The Night the Buzz Stole Christmas” concert on Thursday night. And why not? The grand old venue was both more stately and spacious than the clubs and outdoor festivals they were accustomed to playing.

Emily Haines, the vibrant front woman for the indie pop quartet Metric, however, did not comment on the hall; she owned it. Overcoming an unkind mix and unfamiliar audience, Haines commanded the stage and the band slowly won over the crowd with its merger of ‘80s pop, dance, industrial and indie rock.

Filled by the swirling synthesizers of opening number “Twilight Galaxy,” the Midland felt more like a basement club than a cavernous theater. Metric is much edgier in concert and they put it to good use. Haines strapped on an electric guitar for “Help I’m Alive” and locked eyes with guitarist James Shaw while he peeled off a solo that recalled Mike Campbell’s on “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” “Dead Disco,” the lone number not drawn from “Fantasies,” the ensemble’s celebrated new release. Packed with several crescendos, it was an industrial barrage that felt like a Nine Inch Nails outtake.

The first half of the 40-minute set felt like a teaser for the second. Haines prefaced “Gimme Sympathy,” a song that revives the age-old debate over the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with part of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My.” The performance drew a spirited response from the crowd. Metric seized on this newfound attention by segueing into the spiky “Sick Muse,” which drew even more cheers and hands in the air.

By the time Haines roared into “Stadium Love,” it felt like the band was ready to play Arrowhead. Although Metric headlined the much smaller Granada Theater six months ago, and couldn’t command a crowd this size on their own – the band was second on the “Buzz” bill of four acts – they’ll get there soon enough. And when they do, they’ll be ready for it.

Setlist: Twilight Galaxy, Help I’m Alive, Gold Guns Girls, Gimme Sympathy > Sick Muse > Dead Disco, Stadium Love

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