Artist: Mumford & Sons
Location: (Le) Poisson Rouge
As has been floating around the internet, Mumford AND His Sons have been popping up in random cities to give fans a first listen of their upcoming album, “Wilder Mind.” Luckily, RunTheMill was lucky enough to receive two tickets to the show at the small venue, Le Poisson Rouge, on Monday night. The crowd was what you’d expect from a M&S concert, speckled with a few celebrities including Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis. (What does that have to do with the concert, you ask. Nothing, except that Jason Sudeikis is a cool guy.)
The sons arrived shortly after 9 P.M. and forewarned the audience that they would be playing all new tracks…and that there would be no banjos. The whole set had a collective feeling of moving forward and the excitement associated with discovery. Fame is a double-edged sword, and I felt that by going back to a smaller setting, Mumford and Sons were going back to the basics: learning how to cope with a completely new sound. Acoustic guitars can only give so much feedback through a speaker, and the group had no trouble reaching peak volume. Some of the songs had the familiar slow-building, meditative verses followed by massive and break-free choruses (“The Wolf” ), but others dug slightly deeper into grooves, letting the spaces in between the notes, breathe (songs like “Monster” and “Just Smoke”). Working with The National‘s Aaron Desner definitely has perks.
Overall, the concert was more of an experience, than just a show. The general reception when the album debuts next month will likely be mixed, but my belief is that this is the only direction they could have gone, and I am entirely for it.
Artist: Tobias Jesso Jr.
Venue: The Mercury Lounge
It’s truly inspiring when someone finds his/her footing, creates a work of art he/she can stand behind, have people notice this art, then be showered with praise from both critics and the general public, thereafter become a touring artist to sold out shows and all the while…remain completely humble. As is the case with a RunTheMill favorite, Tobias Jesso Jr.. We have been covering his meteoric rise to stardom for quite some time, and have been amazed by the way in which he has handled the spotlight. With very few live performances to his resume, Tobias exceeded my expectations and delivered. It was just him on stage, a black curtain, and a spotlight overhead. He was completely exposed. The audience was small and intimate. Perhaps only 100 people, but most people held back singing along in order to listen to Tobias’ nuanced melodies and heartfelt lyrics about love, heartbreak, dreams, and discovering your path. A highlight was his poignant, philosophical “Just A Dream.” In between songs, Tobias didn’t hide his goofiness and was quick to make fun of himself. As he moved from piano to guitar, he joked about how small the former female performer’s guitar strap was on his oversized 6 foot 7-inch frame. Tobias is still learning how to handle a solo performance, and he didn’t stray away from the structured and simplified set. That being said, I’m looking forward to his continued success and what else he has in store. Could a band be involved? I hope so.
Venue: The Mercury Lounge
Playing for a small venue takes chutzpah, especially when you are the late night act on a weekday night. After opening act Prinze George, a crowd of 100 slowly disintegrated to a meager 30. But 30 was enough for AYER to start a dance party. With a minimal 8 song setlist, AYER slowly revved up the intensity level, making sure his last songs got everyone moving. I was most pleasantly surprised Ayer’s airy falsetto. It sounded as strong if not stronger than his regular voice; however, since most of the melodies are in that upper register, his lyrics sometimes get washed out. During the crowd favorite, “Circles,” the band truly came together. The drummer freely handled the entire kit as well the backup singer had her fair share of solos. I’d recommend Ayer for anyone who likes groups such as Chvrches, Saint Motel, or Great Good Fine Ok. In summary, Ayer has potential, but as with any new act, there is always room for improvement.
Venue: Terminal 5
If you want to sing like a madman and dance like one too, I recommend you see Future Islands at their next tour stop. Front man Samuel T. Herring doesn’t hold back, flying across the stage in wild sometimes violent, sometimes carnal, and often poetic movements. And while his performance was melodramatic to say the least, I believe he never stopped being genuine. He had complete control of the audience, almost conducting us to the musical roller-coaster that is Future Islands. It’s a quite a feat to combine the highs of positivity and celebration with the depths of nostalgia and sadness, but he pulls it off by switching from deep growls to whispering coos to soaring choruses. In “A Song For Our Grandfathers,” he sings about the importance of our lineage and the mistakes of our past:
“Save for the smoke, that danced when I took a drag
It made me think about the way it all came to be…”
My main critique was that the other band members took too much of a backseat, their faces expressionless and their body language, languid. Maybe, that’s a product of playing the same songs every night, but I would have liked a little more collaboration. Overall, four stars for a show that couldn’t keep me still. As Future Islands describes on its twitter account, “too loud for new wave, too pussy for punk.”
Here is a performance On Letterman: