Monday, March 12, 2007

The Pipettes @ Luna Lounge

Setlist (Actually Accurate)
Intro/Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me//Baby Don't Leave//Why Did You Stay//Because It's Not Love//It Hurts to See You Dance So Well//Your Love For Me...//Guess Who//Really That Bad//Tell Me What//I Love You//True Love//One Night Stand//Judy//Dirty Mind//Pull Shapes

Encore: ABC//We Are the Pipettes

For the second night in a row, it was time for a retro-inspired rock show, and as I walked into the venue tonight, what was playing but The Raveonettes' 'Little Animal,' shortly followed by 'Do You Believe Her,' bridging me from one night to the next. But, that's pretty much where the similarities end. After the major letdown that was The Raveonettes, The Pipettes absolutely owned this venue and put on one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.

This was my first time at Luna Lounge and I was very impressed. The design actually made sense, with the stage in the back, bar in the front. So, people who just want to drink don't wind up lingering around the front, distracting you from the show. It was a very open space, with plenty of room around the stage. I got a great spot, a couple of rows back from the stage, despite arriving at 9:50, shortly before the show was supposed to start. And, in a groundbreaking bit of concert planning, the show actually started at 10, literally 10:00:05 according to my watch. It's so much more fun to go to a show and not stand around for an hour waiting for them to get things together. And, that was only the beginning of the greatness.

The Pipettes were heralded by the emergence of their backing band, pretty much the only acknowledgement that there were seven people on the stage, not three. They announced The Pipettes, who then rushed the stage and launched right into 'Your Kisses are Wasted On Me.' The first couple of tracks were hurt a bit by the sound levels, with drums overwhelming everything else. But, after some harsh words from Gwen, everything leveled out and the show moved towards greatness.

What makes The Pipettes' album so amazing is the fact that they manage to make fourteen songs that are good enough to be singles. There's not a bad track on there, all reach that great pop song place of sounding like something that's always been there, like you know it before you've even heard it. They joked about the fact that the songs are very derivative in terms of subject matter, focusing on two things, love and dancing, but there's enough tempo shifts that it stays fresh. The slower songs are quite beautiful, particularly 'Underneath a Winter Sky,' which was unfortunately the only song from the album that they didn't play.

When approaching music, I'm always more interested in sound than lyrical subject matter. I'd never seen a band that is as much about vocal interplay as this one, and it was a lot of fun to see their voices work together and seperately, creating really smooth harmonies that balanced each other and drew you into the songs. As I mentioned before, the band stayed in the background, there, but never the focus. They provided texture to underlie the vocal performances. Gwen and Rose each did a stint on keyboard, but the focus was the vocals.

My only major issue with this show was the fact that they played a lot of songs I hadn't heard, particularly early on. I still liked them, but not in the same way that I responded to the stuff I already knew. The new material sounds like it's going in a similar direction, but with some slightly different influences, doing more variety with the vocals. It's more of the same, but different, which is a good place to be on the second album.

I usually go to rock shows, which are just a bunch of people with instruments. They did something a bit different, doing a lot of choreographed dancing and miming for each song, adding to the charm of their music. The founding principle behind boy and girl groups is to give each member a distinctive personality, and play that up within the show. Here, you've got Gwen, the siren pin-up girl, Becki, the goofy hipster/librarian, and Rose, a Rory Gilmore type. Their on stage presentation reinforces these personas, but also allows them all to just dance around and have goofy fun. Their choreographed motions are very human and endearing. I feel like everyone in the audience fell in love with at least one of them, on the way out I heard a lot of debates about who your favorite Pipette was.

It was refreshing to go to a show that was meant to entertain you, where the performers were having fun, and the audience was too. This was their first US show, and I'd imagine it's still a surprise to play somewhere and get a response like this one. The crowd was really into the show, giving one of the most enthusiastic calls for an encore I've seen. Particularly on the closing run of songs, there was a lot of movement and enthusiasm.

For me, every song from the album was bordering on highlight, but the absolute best was the closing three song run of 'Judy,' 'Dirty Mind,' and particularly 'Pull Shapes.' That song's the pinnacle of their work so far and it was great live, from the ecstatic buildup, with all of them out, building up the crowd, to the great "Disco/Rock 'n Roll/Hip-Hop" call out. The last song of the encore, 'We Are the Pipettes' was pretty much an affirmation of all we'd seen. At that point, they certainly seemed like the prettiest girls I'd ever seen and I was all set to the take them to my planet.

One thing that surprised me was how strong all of them were vocally. Typically in a group like this you have one great singer and then a couple of backers. Here, they all swapped lead vocal duties, and each brought their own skills. Gwen had the strongest stage personality, but I think Rose had the strongest voice, and seemed to get more and more into things as the show progressed.

This show was really fantastic, just a whole lot of fun. They sounded great and put on a really endearing stage show. I'm really glad I caught them the first time through the States, in a small venue, as their career is on the rise. And, I did get tickets for the Amy Winehouse show on Tuesday, so I'll see them there again, but I'm actually contemplating making it a three in a row, and going to Luna again tomorrow. It was just that good.


Kenneth M. Walsh said...

You are so lucky!!!! I had to work both nights ...

John said...

Well said. You're sentiments mirror mine. I was there and very entertained. I was afraid that they and the show would be panned by local critics, but thankfully I was wrong.

Patrick said...

The Pipettes played exactly the sort of show I'd have wanted to see after hearing the album, and I'd hope most people going to see them would know that and want the same thing too. I saw them again last night with Amy Winehouse and the crowd wasn't quite as into them, but they did really well considering they were an opening act. I felt like they were such an infectiously fun stage presence, most of the crowd got won over as things went on.