Synthesizers echoed over the P.A. system at Le Poisson Rouge on July 14th as the dimly lit stage was filled with smoke, then with the four members of Wild Beasts plus keyboardist Katie Harkin, borrowed from the band Sky Larkin.
Drummer Chris Talbot opened with a tribal drum beat for “Plaything.” Keys and samples joined in as Hayden Thorpe’s beautiful falsetto voice took over. It was most mellow and set the tone for the band’s new songs.
“Loop the Loop” brought purple lights swirling through the fog. Thorpe, with hair slicked back and beard neatly trimmed, traded his bass for a guitar and kept the unique voice. Larkin’s delicate keys laid filigree on this dreamy number.
The band, which formed in Kendal, U.K., and now resides in London, continued with new material from its third album “Smother.” On “Deeper,” Tom Fleming took over vocal and guitar, his baritone a stark contrast to Thorpe’s, though the two matched nicely on harmonies.
After the new material’s mellow, “The Devils Crayon,” from the band’s debut album, lit a spark. The prickly guitar work of Ben Little and tip-tap drumming of Talbot gelled perfectly. Fleming and Thorpe swap vocal duties as the song moved between peaks and valleys before coming to a slow end.
The energy remained high as the guys went through material from their sophomore album “Two Dancers.” “We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ on Our Tongues” created a dark and sexy vibe all through their layering of minimal notes mixed with Hayden’s haunting vocals. The crowd showed its appreciation or awe with utter silence.
The closing “Hooting & Howling” brought on impromptu clapping from the crowd. Wild Beasts are a captivating band that challenges its listeners. Be sure to see them when they return to New York for a pair of shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sept. 23rd and 24th.
The British invasion at Le Poisson Rouge continued on July 27th with the London sensation Anna Calvi -- her self-titled debut album was recently nominated for a 2011 Barclaycard Mercury Prize.
Hair in a bun, lips bright red and eyes dark with eyeliner, Calvi strapped on a guitar for the instrumental “Rider to the Sea.” With the big, deep opening note, all chatter ceased, making way for reverb-heavy guitar riffs, rolling drums and colliding cymbals. Calvi’s guitar worked into impressive speed by the end.
“No More Words” proved she’s a complete package. Her sultry voice and this dark, sexy tune again stilled the crowd. “Blackout” brought out a triumphal feel, with pounding drums and pumping harmonium.
Compared to P.J. Harvey
Often compared to PJ Harvey -- they share producer Rob Ellis -- Calvi offers one of today’s most promising acts. She’s a musician who draws on the past and still makes retro sound fresh, as with covers of Elvis Presley’s “Surrender” and of “Jezebel,” made famous by Frankie Laine and Edith Piaf.
The encore saw two covers. She gave a chilling instrumental rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Joan of Arc,” with her guitar work resembling a harpist. Closing with “Jezebel” brought out a western flair and roped us in like a hot cowgirl.
While Calvi has no more U.S. dates at this time, she will be touring Europe and the U.K.
Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in August. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets.
Aug. 1 Lykke Li/Timber Timbre at Central Park SummerStage (SO) Aug. 2 Allison Krauss & Union Station/Dawes at Beacon Theater (SO) Aug. 3 Sufjan Stevens/Diamond Rings at Prospect Park Bandshell Aug. 4 Man Man/Glass Candy/Crystal Antlers at House of Vans Aug. 5 Ra Ra Riot/Delicate Steve/Buke & Gass at Prospect Park Bandshell (Free) Aug. 6 Cold Cave/Austra at Bowery Ballroom Aug. 7 Mission of Burma at Beekman Beer Garden (Free) Aug. 8 The Kills/The Pains of Being Pure at Heart/A Place to Bury Strangers at Terminal 5 Aug. 9 Bon Iver/The Rosebuds at United Palace Theater (SO) Aug. 10 Bon Iver/The Rosebuds at United Palace Theater (SO) Aug. 11 Deer Tick/DOM at Pier 54 (Free) Aug. 12 Sonic Youth/Wild Flag/Kurt Vile at Williamsburg Waterfront Aug. 13 Woods/White Fence/Ducktails at Bowery Ballroom Aug. 14 Bettye LaVette at Lincoln Center Aug. 16 James Pants/Pyschobuildings at Glasslands Aug. 17 Figurines/Pomegranates/Extra Arms at Knitting Factory Aug. 18 Handsome Furs/Thee Satisfaction at Bowery Ballroom Aug. 19 Yellow Ostrich at Glasslands The War on Drugs/Caveman at Cameo Gallery Aug. 20 The Rapture/Total Slacker at Music Hall of Williamsburg Aug. 21 Iceage at Secret Project Robot Aug. 22 Smoke Fairies at Rockwood Music Hall Deerhunter/Eleanor Freidberger at Webster Hall (SO) Aug. 23 Deerhunter/Eleanor Freidberger at Webster Hall Aug. 24 David Vandervelde at Knitting Factory Aug. 25 St. Vincent at Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden (Metropolitan Museum of Art, SO) Aug. 26 Sun Araw/Prince Rama/Julianna Barwick/Pterodactyl at Music Hall of Williamsburg Aug. 27 Afro-Punk Festival at Commodore Barry Park (Free) Richard Buckner/Davide Kilgour at Bell House Aug. 28 Afro-Punk Festival at Commodore Barry Park (Free) Aug. 29 Male Bonding at Mercury Lounge Aug. 30 Jonny Corndawg at Union Pool Aug. 31 Bright Eyes/Dr. Dog at Williamsburg Waterfront
(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at email@example.com.