Cut Copy, The Black Kids @ Abbey Pub, Chicago 05/07/08
Last Wednesday night the Abbey Pub packed the house with eager and energetic fans ready for one thing and one thing only: a dance party. While I cannot be absolutely sure, the crowd was there heavily to see Cut Copy though I am sure now I was in this crowd to see Cut Copy. The new album, In Ghost Colours, is on repeat on my iPod, but I had some misgivings headed into the night. I was put off by a video of the band on Spinner’s Interface because there was a lot of standing around while music was being “played.” Not sure how I would take to this approach, I didn’t set the expectations too high. It did not matter. The Aussie natives cruised through an hour-long set that started big and ended even bigger.
I wish I could sing the same praises for the opening band, The Black Kids, but the Jacksonville quintet definitely needs some work in the live setting. The sound was way off the entire set and personally I don’t think the band is very talented; lead singer Reggie Youngblood’s guitar solos were almost comical. It seems to me that there is a lot of gimmick and little substance associated with this group. It sucks when you dig a band’s EP and they’ve got quite a bit of hype surrounding them but they fail to even come close on stage.
The Black Kid’s EP, The Wizard of Ahhs, is a solid throwback to some moody eighties bands yet with a much lighter take on the mood. Reggie Youngblood’s voice on the record falls somewhere between Robert Smith and Ian McCulloch but live it was simply whiny. They started the night off with a few songs I had never heard, and after realizing that it wasn’t going to be the Black Kids night sound-wise, I started to focus on the lyrics.
This did not help, with choruses like “I Wanna Be Your Limousine” and lines that get worse than that, the triviality only deepened. They finally reached their two big hitters “Hurricane Jane” and “I Don’t Want to Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance” towards the end of the set and worked them over nicely, but by that time I was totally disenchanted. I hope I caught the Black Kids on a bad night, because if this is a consistent performance standard they are going to tour themselves into the ground.
After a short break in between bands and the entirety of Cut Copy broke onto the stage from the only beacon of light in the darkened Abbey Pub, the side-stage door. The music was already bumping and this would be a consistent theme of the night. There was always music playing yet not always someone actually playing an instrument. It was almost coincidental because I discussed this exact phenomenon with Jared Bell from the Lymbyc Systym in an interview earlier in the week. He mentioned that in many cases looping and using pre-manipulated music can fall in the theory of suspension of disbelief. Simply put, the more entertaining a band is the more they can get away with in respect to live limitations. Cut Copy was exactly this, and aside from the beginning of the show, I really didn’t think about the fact that some music wasn’t actually being played the rest of the night.
The band came out really strong with the song “Out There On the Ice,” which follows a consistent pattern in Cut Copy’s music. Most always, the tunes start off with a very “new wave” feel and gradually moving into heavier dance music. “Out There On the Ice” was a incredible opener peaking out in the middle and end of the tune; the crowd was already amped to go and this really pushed the energy. The group then worked over some older stuff that was definitely solid yet less electropop than the newer material. The tune “So Haunted” gave the band an opportunity to hit the instruments for a bit before ending on a poppy four to the floor minute or so. The blend of distorted guitar and Dan Whitford’s voice is compelling.
The show really got going about halfway in when Whitford gave this intro, “If you don’t know this song you’re either living under a rock or you bought these tickets on accident.” The band promptly jumped into “Lights and Music,”, the biggest single from the recent album. At about two minutes in guitarist Tim Hoey lets a distorted synth ride from the low notes to the high, peaking out straight into the chorus. The entire room went ape-shit; people were jumping up and down, spilling beers and acting like teen-aged boy band fans. I loved it.
They ended the show in the best possible fashion a band can — with high energy. Closing the set with the raucous dance tune “Hearts on Fire” and encoring with their most upbeat tune, “Far Away,” was perfect. The final song of the set, I swear, may have started a brawl in the back of the room because bouncers were wrestling dudes out the door when I stepped back to take shots of the crowd. When the band retook stage for the encore, Whitford claimed that this was the best crowd they have had all tour, sending people into a frenzy. They dropped the encore, “Far Away,” and let it ride on the heavy dance ending for a few minutes; I took that as my cue to step outside and cool down from a crazy night at the Abbey.
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