Wassup Rockers

Jamie Lidell @ Bowery Ballroom, 6/9 (2nd Night).

[Note: This was written last night.] Well, just got back from my first Jamie Lidell concert, and I hope it’s not the last.

Can I tell you something hilarious and sad before I move on to the concert review? The Bowery Ballroom was two blocks away from the D train stop, but I was unfamiliar with the area, so I went the wrong way and ended up walking around in the heat for twenty minutes before I finally found Bowery and was able to find the venue. How pathetic is that? The worst part is that, after having sneered at Miranda Hobbes in the Sex & the City movie for being so awkward in fucking Chinatown, I was just as uneasy about asking for directions and found my way by myself. Definitely not my finest moment.

Jennifer O’Connor did nothing for me. I know that in the age of MySpace and all, it feels like every little obscure band has fans, but I just can’t imagine anyone ever saying, “ZOMG I’M LIKE THE BIIIIIGGEST JENNIFER O’CONNOR FAN EVZ!” (See: 7248 friends on her profile as of today, guess I’m wrong.) Well, she shattered my low expectations, I thought it was going to be some fragile heartbroken skinny girl singing in a whispery voice and strumming some sort of traditional folky tunes and confessional ditties. (Hey, whatever happened to Joanna Newsom…?) Instead, Jennifer O’Connor came out in her full-bodied, Public Enemy shirt-wearing glory, doing this pop rock thing of hers that, admittedly, was very polished. It’s just that after four or five songs I felt, “Okay, I get the point,” and when I thought about it, it really felt like if she’d been one of those female singer-songwriters who emerged in the mid- to late-90s, she probably wouldn’t have stood out enough to be remembered. (Hey, whatever happened to that girl who lived in her van…?)

I think the other thing that bothered me was that she had no chemistry with the bassist and the drummer. I understand she’s a solo artist, but I was very surprised that the two dudes were so on point with their parts, because she hardly interacted with them. It’s like, they were well-trained and ready to play, but there was no spark among the three, which was kind of a bummer to watch, especially because the arrangements weren’t very interesting or memorable. Thinking back on the set, I imagine I liked a few of the songs, but I couldn’t tell you which ones.

Even before I saw O’Connor, I found it a very odd pairing with Jamie Lidell, and after finally seeing Lidell, I stand by this thought. Damn, seriously, she didn’t even compare in terms of performance. What was great was that, after having a certain idea of who Jamie Lidell is as a musician, this concert both solidified and challenged the way I view him. You see, I understand that he has a schtick, and he does nothing to distance himself from it. He does present himself as this really fly nerd, a mad scientist who’s perpetually poppin’ caffeine pills so he can stay awake and work on some crazy jams, etc. And I kinda believed that, like if I ever bumped into him on the street I’d be too scared to speak to him because I don’t know what to make of him.

(Dude was completely clean-shaven, which I didn’t expect either. Most of the pictures I’ve seen of him show him as a scruffy mess, so I took it personally and was almost honored to see him without any facial hair. But now that I think of it, I’m sure he shaved because it was so damn hot.)

On the stage, I got to see he’s capable of being a high-functioning member of society, that he can break out of his kookiness and just give a big smile out of gratitude that so many folks showed up to enjoy his show, you know? Like when he handed over the mic to people, he seemed genuinely pleased that these people were singing along. It hit me that he’s not some artiste wrapped up in his own musical world and that, instead, he is able to connect with others around him.

Lidell sounds really good with a live band, his voice is incredible. Seriously, it’s a little raw in terms of texture but he’s a very very good singer. Definitely works the quirks to his advantage. I think my favorite performance was “Green Light,” not only because it is my current favorite on Jim, but also because it was preceded by this long spoken intro about having had a dream where he had to give his nephew some of his wisdom. Or I think he said that, because I could only understand half the shit he said. (I’m bad with accents AND my hearing is shoddy.)

I’m not saying the entire show was flawless, there was a bit that I didn’t actually dig as much, even though I danced through it just as hard. See, when the show ended, I felt like he’d hardly played any of his songs, maybe like ten of them. When I checked my watch, however, I noted that he had played for almost an hour and a half. So what was the dealio? See, in the middle of the set, his bandmates conga-lined off the stage and left Lidell to his own devices. It was like twenty solid minutes of madness on his laptop and assorted gadgetry. By the end I was like, “Okay, this is bordering on masturbatory…” You know, fun for the individual, but not as much for the people watching. Of course there were some hard beats and he showed how adept he is at what he does, but to me, it sounded like… noise. That’s why at the end of the show I felt like he hadn’t played that many songs, because I discounted that entire section of improvised beats and samples. During this section he played “When I Come Back Around,” but it was completely reworked. In theory this was nice, it’s always wonderful to approach familiar songs in new and exciting ways, but in practice it was disappointing because this is my favorite song on Multiply because it already has such a great arrangement. Oh wells.

You know something though? The thing that really made it worth it, that really made me feel like I was experiencing something special, was that he really seemed happy to be there and to share his songs with us. Not just him, either, all his bandmates and even the dudes chronicling the show on camera, too. It’s so weird, I expected Lidell to be pretty goofy, but he found four other guys on the same goofy wavelength that he’s on. They just seemed to be enjoying each other and enjoying their roles in the whole shebang. It made me happy because, while bands are usually very grateful you‘re there, you don’t always sense that they want to be there. Lidell and his motley crew, however, seemed fucking ecstatic.

It was the first concert I’d gone to in a looooooong time, so it was lovely to have broken my semi-retirement from live shows by going to this one.

Oh, another thing: dude had the flyest shoes ever. Seriously. I totally wanted a pair.


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