Depeche Mode 9/9/17

(a) setlist

  1. Going Backwards
  2. So Much Love
  3. Barrel of a Gun
  4. A Pain That I’m Use To (Jacques Lu Cont remix)
  5. Corrupt
  6. In Your Room
  7. World in My Eyes
  8. Cover Me
  9. A Question of Lust (acoustic)
  10. Home
  11. Poison Heart
  12. Where’s the Revolution
  13. Wrong
  14. Everything Counts
  15. Stripped
  16. Enjoy the Silence
  17. Never Let Me Down Again

Encore:

  1. Somebody
  2. Walking in My Shoes
  3. Heroes (David Bowie cover)
  4. I Feel You
  5. Personal Jesus

(b) highlights

  • Depeche!!! Mode!!!! YESSSSS!
  • this was one of the best show I’ve seen in such a long time, probably the best performance of the year. I’m still buzzing about it, and I’m writing about this over a month and a half later.
  • this setlist was out of control, so tight, so measured, so so damn good.
  • I’ve heard roughly a dozen covers of “Heroes” over the last two years since Bowie’s death and this was the best without a doubt. hands down.
  • “In Your Room,” “Wrong,” and “Everything Counts” were phenomenal; don’t even get me started on “Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus.”
  • the high-class visuals of this show were probably the best I’ve ever seen since New Order and U2; the use of the screens and runways was made for massive arenas yet totally made Madison Square Garden feel small and intimate.
  • the perfect classics fit so perfectly along Depeche Mode’s new music and that is definitely something I can say about legacy acts.
  • this show was so good that it made me raise my personal bar for what determines a great show and performance; if you’ve been around for over a decade, have money, and claim to prioritize the necessity of showmanship, then you better see Depeche Mode and see how they’ve perfected it.

(c) lowlights

  • nothing. not a single thing.

(d) overall thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Depeche Mode since high school when I first discovered them. Like U2, The Smiths, The Cure, and other 80’s bands that I deeply treasure, Depeche Mode have always been artists that felt untouchable and unreal to me. And after seeing them at Madison Square Garden at this show, David Gahan, Andy Fletcher, and Martin Gore feel even more godly.

I think the reason this show felt so legendary to me was because I was expecting something else. It would’ve been so insanely easy for Depeche Mode to stroll out, play a couple of classics, maybe throw in a few new cuts, and most people probably still would’ve had a good time. But that’s not at all what they did. They didn’t settle whatsoever. Gahan came out with more star-power energy than guys half his age. But that’s exactly the point of what made this show next level: not a single moment was half-assed.

Even though I was sitting at the clear back of the venue in pretty good seats, and I’ve definitely had better seats at Madison Square Garden, I’ve never seen a crowd with more energy. And I have seen massive groups perform there. Radiohead, U2, Blur, The Cure and Morrissey all had notable, high-energy crowds, but none of them could touch this. At one point, I couldn’t even hear Gahan singing “Everything Counts,” but thousands upon thousands voices all chanting together. I felt like the walls of MSG were going to fall off.

I feel like I could talk endlessly about Gahan’s energy as a frontman, Martin Gore’s strength as a both a singer and guitarist, Andy Fletcher’s consistent purity, hit after hit shocking the audience with their perfection, and the unbelievable visuals, but I would much rather tell you to see Depeche Mode and see them as soon as you can. You will only regret missing them.

Bottom line: Depeche Mode have no interest in resting on their laurels as musicians and performers, and that’s just one more reason they’re incredible artists. I won’t forget this show and have no problem saying it’s probably the best performance I saw this year. This is one of those shows I’ll be thinking about and remember for years and years to come.

Lorde 6/2/17

(a) setlist

    1. Tennis Court
    2. Magnets (Disclosure cover)
    3. 400 Lux
    4. Buzzcut Season
    5. Ribs
    6. Sober
    7. Sober II (Melodrama)
    8. Hang With Me (Robyn Cover) (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    9. Liability (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    10. Royals
    11. Perfect Places (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    12. Team
    13. Green Light

(b) highlights

  • LORDE!!!!! This. girl. is. FAB.U.LOUS.
  • Seriously, can I be friends with Lorde. I know she has several posses and what not, but like…I can contribute.
  • First time seeing with witchy girl and I am SO on board with everything
  • The clear, glass shipping container that was the focus of her stage production was so oddly unique and clever. The dancers, the lights, how she interacted with the stage – whoever’s job it is to conceive of that stuff needs a raise
  • looking back on the setlist right now, I can’t believe she only played 13 tracks – I felt like we spent the whole weekend together; everything was perfectly paced and I totally loved how many new tracks she threw in. I’m not here for singles-only sets and neither is Lorde
  • there was a group of young 20-somethings/late teens standing near me and my friends and they were low-key crying throughout the set and even though I felt a lot older than them that night, I just wanna say “same”
  • this completely accidental and beautiful moment during the final bridge of “Team” when all the lights were flashing, the sun was finally setting over the horizon, Lorde is singing “we’re on each other’s team,” and then I look up into the sky and this perfect pack of ducks are flying in a V formation right over the stage. it was so bizarre and beautiful and oddly perfect.

(c) lowlights

  • I’m not exactly a fan of Jack Antonoff so I thought his presence was a bit much, but honestly, Lorde loves him and he didn’t really talk, so he was the perfect accessory to her fantastic performance

(d) overall thoughts

Like most people, I discovered Lorde after “Royals” dropped out of practically the sky above. But it wasn’t until I heard a few years ago that David Bowie was a fan before he died, so I knew it was time to start paying attention. I never watch the Grammy’s or generally acknowledge its presence, but for some reason, I really remember the year that Lorde won and how she so awkwardly accepted her award, all dressed in black, her hair long and curly, and sort of ran off-stage. Her inherent authenticity – a word I dislike and rarely use – totally killed me.

A bit after, I got into Pure Heroine and realized that this chick was special and couldn’t miss her at Gov Ball. She walked out wearing a lace veil over her face slowly singing the refrain to “Green Light” and pretty much the rest is history. Dressed in black and lace and heels I would’ve died in, she danced across the stage like she owned it and everyone was at her whim. She opened with my favorite song “Tennis Court,” which I still feel like is such a bizarre song for a pop singer to have as a single off their first album. The melody is so unusual, the imagery is almost mismatched with Lorde’s aesthetic, yet everything about it works so well. It’s the interesting contradictions that make Lorde so special. What even is this girl? She’s herself.

Her banter in-between songs was so genuine and authentic, I swore that we were old friends. The stage and festival grounds became a very, very large bed where we all chatted at the largest and most intimate pajama party ever. And I mean that in the least condescending way possible. Lorde is ethereal, young, fresh, weird, and everything you wish you were at her age. The tracks she played from her new album feel powerful, meaningful, and I won’t be one bit surprised when Melodrama completely blows up the world.

Bottom line: Lorde is one of the most authentic performers in recent memory; her unique vulnerability and fresh perspective almost makes me wish I could relive my high school years if only so she could be there to guide me.

The Struts 12/17/16

(a) setlist

    1. Put Your Hands Up
    2. These Times Are Changing
    3. Could Have Been Me
    4. Matter Of Time
    5. Kiss This
    6. Mary Go Round
    7. I Just Know
    8. Dirty Sexy Money
    9. Let’s Make This Happen Tonight
    10. Put Your Money On Me
    11. Only Just a Call Away
    12. Rebel Rebel (David Bowie cover)
    13. Where Did She Go

(b) highlights

  • The Struts are one of the best live bands in recent memory. Period.
  • any band that has FOUR costume changes casually included in their set gets an A+ in my book.
  • you haven’t seen audience participation until you’ve been to a Struts show; Luke Spiller is one of the most charismatic and energetic frontman imaginable – you know you’re doing something right when most people compare you to Freddie Mercury and Steven Tyler in terms of performance, voice, and attitude.
  • 2016 was the year of David Bowie covers for obvious reasons, and this cover of “Rebel Rebel” nailed it on all accounts.
  • I really cannot underscore how much fun Struts shows are – everyone was into every song whether they knew the lyrics or not.
  • Luke came into the crowd after costume change number 3 and took control of the crowd instantly.
  • I love the Warsaw – awesome venue, awesome sound, such a solid night.

(c) lowlights

  • I really can’t say there was anything bad to say about this show; I would tell everyone and their mother to see the Struts live if I could.

(d) overall thoughts

The first time I saw The Struts, they opened for The Killers in Arizona in April earlier this year. Needless to say, I was completely blown away by their show despite having never heard any of their songs let alone knew they were a band. They only have one full-length album out, Everyone Wants, but man, is that album packed with clear hits. Track after track feels like a full-bodied hit; every song could be a single and every song is a triumphant fist-pump to boot. The English band gives off a classic rock vibe – 80’s hair metal minus the metal and more arena-type singalongs.

“Put Your Hands Up,” “Could Have Been Me,” and “Kiss This” are notable standouts, but honestly, every single track was high-energy and fun. Luke Spiller brings audience engagement and participation to the next level, and every band member plays their instrument well. If I only had one word to describe what makes The Struts so magical live is presence. The band just has it. And you know that everyone in the room can feel it. Whether we’re all clapping together, jumping in formation, or singing in one voice “oh oh oh ohhhh!” – we’re all in it. By the time the confetti rained down on the audience, every person in the room was grinning ear-to-ear.

Bottom line: The Struts are one hell of a band of performers and they put everything into their live shows. From presentation and sound to attitude and theatrics, this Struts gig was the perfect way to put an end to 2016.

The Last Shadow Puppets 8/2/16

(a) setlist

    1. Ghost Rider (Suicide cover)
    2. The Age of the Understatement
    3. Only the Truth
    4. Aviation
    5. Used to be My Girl
    6. The Element of Surprise
    7. Dracula Teeth
    8. My Mistakes Were Made For You
    9. Bad Habits
    10. Totally Wired (The Fall cover)
    11. Miracle Aligner
    12. Pattern
    13. Standing Next to Me
    14. Sweet Dreams, TN
    15. In My Room

Encore:

  1. The Dream Synopsis
  2. Meeting Place
  3. Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover)

(b) highlights

  • this was probably the first time I’ve seen Alex Turner perform live in some capacity in which he was only 10% insufferable, good job Alex!
  • the performance overall felt adequately paced and enjoyable – much better than the band’s last performance at Webster Hall in NYC a few months ago
  • there was less hair gel, less stupid outfits, less general nonsense from Alex and Miles Kane than normal; their antics were turned down and a lot of it felt real
  • “The Age of the Understatement” and “My Mistakes are Made For You” are freaking classic tracks that can’t be touched
  • shockingly, the sound in the venue was pretty good (a unique case for Terminal 5) and the lighting and production really set the tone and scene for TLSP’s aesthetic
  • for the beginning of the encore, Alex sang like a lounge act singer from the second floor balcony and it was kinda so stupidly ridiculous that it ended up being great
  • I’ve seen mannnnny David Bowie covers this year and they’re not always good – this one by the Last Shadow Puppets was great

(c) lowlights

  • I freaking hate Terminal 5 – this show wasn’t even supposed to be at that event but we rescheduled and we all had to suffer, ugh
  • I don’t really like the Arctic Monkeys fanbase and they come out in droves when Alex Turner is around

(d) overall thoughts

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my history with Alex Turner and his bands goes back quite a bit. I’ve been finding him particularly insufferable and annoying these last few years and his showmanship and antics with Miles Kane only amplify that. When I saw The Last Shadow Puppets a few months ago at Webster Hall, I enjoyed the music, yes, but found myself distracted by their laughable stage personas and embodiment of performance in every sense of the word.

But this show felt a bit different. Sure, Alex and Miles were still Alex and Miles. Alex crooned like a lounge act singer from the second floor balcony and smooth-talked between songs like Richard Dawson on Family Feud, and Miles strutted around in what I believe was a $3,000 silk bathrobe that I guess was supposed to be sexy (?), but it was all very toned-down in comparison. The songs were a solid mix of emotional string ballads and gritty guitar ditties, and tracks from Everything You’ve Come To Expect flawlessly intermingled with those from The Age of the Understatement; although, I must admit that – in the moment – I found myself more excited to hear the latter.

The arrangement of songs was a bit strange, though. I remember thinking after “Bad Habits” was performed: wait, what else do they have left? What even are they going to play? Despite the hits-heavy first-half, you can’t not love a great David Bowie cover. “Moonage Daydream” is a personal favorite of mine for sentimental reasons and I didn’t even mind that they ended with it nor that it felt a bit over-indulgent at one point. Their Beatles cover at Webster Hall was exceptionally self-indulgent, so this – much like the rest of the show – felt notably understated. Which isn’t what I expected at all. Oh, the double, sweet irony.

 

Bottom line: The Last Shadow Puppets are capable of real musical artistry and performance once they remove their heads from their asses; they have two solid albums’ worth of pristine material and I hate when that’s shattered by a silk robe.

Bloc Party 3/16/16

(a) setlist

    1. Only He Can Heal Me
    2. Octopus
    3. Virtue
    4. Song For Clay (Disappear Here)
    5. Banquet
    6. One More Chance
    7. Different Drugs
    8. Exes
    9. So He Begins to Lie
    10. Hunting for Witches
    11. Positive Tension
    12. The Love Within

Encore:

  1. Heroes (David Bowie cover)
  2. Flux
  3. Helicopter
  4. Ratchet

(b) highlights

  • seeing one of my favorite bands of all time live for the first time (!!!!!)
  • “Song For Clay (Disappear Here),” “Banquet,” and “Helicopter” soothing my 16 year old soul
  • David Bowie cover (!!!!) and it was HEROES (!!!)
  • “The Love Within” and “Exes” – haters gonna hate
  • no, really, guys – I have loved Bloc Party since 2005, this was a DREAM show for me

(c) lowlights

  • probably the worst crowd I’ve ever seen in New York City
  • set was too short
  • I miss the original band lineup
  • everyone needed more energy

(d) overall thoughts

I’ve dreamed about this show for years. Somehow, Bloc Party was always the band that got away for me. I’ve adored them since the moment I heard “Banquet” in 2005 and, unlike most fans, have (mostly) enjoyed their newer work after the departure of founding members Gordon Moakes and the inimitable Matt Tong. Kele Okereke has always been a controversial frontman and some fans feel a strange betrayal on his part, but I still believe in this band. Though it’s unpopular to say, I enjoy the slow-burning quietness of their newest album Hymns, and – haters will hate – I totally dig singles, “The Love Within” and “Exes.”

I’m still partial to Bloc Party’s earlier work – particularly Intimacy and A Weekend in the City, an album that would undoubtedly make my Top 5 Desert Island List, and it’s clear the crowd at Irving Plaza preferred the early work too. Meaning no one remotely moved for anything other than songs written ten years ago. So irritating as a fan and must be for the band, as well. Regardless, Kele is a frontman and stood behind his work. Russell Lissack brought it on guitar in a way that endearingly made me feel like he’s still living in 2005, but there wasn’t much to say about the new members Justin Harris and Louise Bartle. The new rhythm section wasn’t bad in any way – they just feel like touring musicians in the shadow of their frontman.

I hope to see the band later this year at Gov Ball, and I hope both the band and crowd step it up for a great performance, not one that is merely good.

Bottom line: The expectations in my mind I’ve had for this show for years weren’t exactly met, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t bawl my eyes out for the back-to-back, heart-wrenching pair that was “Song For Clay (Disappear Here)” and “Banquet.” Step it up next time, Bloc Party, cause I love you a lot.

Bonus Stuff!

David Bowie’s “Heroes” cover: