Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Raveonettes @ Southpaw

I first listened to The Raveonettes because they were going to be playing at Across the Narrows in 2005, and since I was going anyway, I figured I might as well familiarize myself with their work. I heard 'Pretty in Black' and fell in love with its 50s style and David Lynch vibe. Seeing them live, they absolutely tore up the stage, right from the driving rock of their opening song, 'You Say, You Lie.' I've wanted to see them again live ever since, so I was excited when they announced a series of shows for this week. However, things did not work out quite as well as I'd have liked.

But first, let me commend their opening band, The Pity Party. They were two people, a guy on guitar and a girl on drums, keyboard and vocals. She was giving it her all, and even broke a drum stick playing. They played really driving rock that fluctuated between punk and electrodance rhythms. I really enjoyed their set, though it was a bit exhausting and after the halfway point, there were diminishing returns.

Part of this was that I was waiting a long time for The Raveonettes to go on. There was a lot of standing around waiting for their set to start, I got there at 10 and they didn't play until 11:30. Not to sound like an old person, but can't you get started a bit earlier, particularly on daylight savings night. I didn't get home until 3:30.

Anyway, after The Pity Party, I was waiting, listening to the house music. A driving 50s guitar sound, backed by a low cello came on, and I was thinking "Is this from Mulholland Dr?" After a moment I realized that it wasn't from MD, it was the Pink Room song from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. What a great track, and it was followed by two songs from Mulholland Dr. I'd always felt The Raveonettes had a very Lynch sound, and this music selection confirmed their inspiration. That brings us to the show itself. Here's the rough setlist:

Twilight//Let's Rave On//Dirty Eyes (Sex Don't Sell)//Heartbreak Stroll//Bowels of the Beat//Chain Gang of Love//Sex Beat//My Tornado//Love in a Trashcan//100 %//Love Can Destroy//I Want Your Candy//Seductress of Bums//Dead Sound//The Love Gang//Attack of the Ghost Riders//Experiment in Black

Unlike the last time I saw them, this wasn't a full band show, it was just Sharin and Sune on guitars most of the time, sometimes one of them on a drum. A couple of songs in, Sune said something like "Don't wait for it to kick in, because this is it," and that pretty much sums up how I felt about the show, I was always waiting, it never quite clicked. Listening to 'Twilight,' I was liking it, but it felt like the build up to the real start of the show, after the part where the record kicks in, I was still waiting and then the song ended. That song in particular felt lethargic next to its album counterpart, and that's not where you want to be live.

Looking at the setlist, you can see that they stuck mostly to the first two albums, songs that were built around the two of them, rather than the more orchestrated Pretty in Black. That was probably a smart choice, I don't know that you could do justice to 'Ode to L.A' with just two people, but it also meant most of my favorite songs weren't played. I like their first two albums, but love Pretty in Black, and they played only three tracks from it, some of the weaker ones as well. It was frustrating for me since I was waiting for 'Sleepwalking' or 'Uncertain Times,' and never got it. 'Uncertain Times' is my favorite of their songs and I think they could have done a beautiful arrangement with just the two of them.

But, they seemed more interested in doing edgier, feedbacky songs, not the lilting beauty of something like 'Uncertain Times.' I think there's a reason their first two albums were very short, it's tough to take the staticky guitar after a while, this show did a number on my ears, and after a while, the tracks started to blend together. With only the two of them, there were only so many sounds they could do, and it reached the point where just a rudimentary drum beat felt so satisfying.

I'm the kind of person who always wants more when it comes to music, particularly live. The best live act I've ever seen is The Polyphonic Spree, and this is the total opposite of that. I would have loved some keyboards, another guitar or even just a guy on drums all the time. This felt like a jam session with the two of them, not something that was made to entertain an audience. I particularly missed their other guitarist, I believe his name was Manoj. He was so into the songs, just going crazy over the top, and that helped sell the show. Sune and Sharin have a rather shy stage presence, and he kept emphasizing how happy he was that people stayed for the whole show. I get the feeling he recognized that people were having some trouble with the minimalism of the performance, I admire the experimentation, but not every experiment works.

That's not to say it was all bad. They created some wonderful atmosphere, particularly on the less rocky tracks, like 'Bowels of the Beast,' and 'Sex Don't Sell' and 'Love in a Trash Can' were both pretty tight. But, I always wanted a bit more, I was considering going to the Monday show, but I don't think it's worth it. If it was full band, I'd be all over it, but the two of them just wasn't enough.

But, it was cool to see how much the two of them could do. They're both great musicians, and were able to create entire worlds through the two guitars. In the more dreamy, atmospheric moments, the two guitars worked fine, but it's best to have minimalism as a contrast, not as the entire thing.

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