We’ve had an amazing run of shows in New Orleans lately. Over the past couple of weeks we have been able to witness the evolution of from Hindemith’s innovation in Kammermusik with the LPO through Kraftwerk and the contemporary innovations of James Blake, Sinkane and Andrew Bird.
James Blake at the Orpheum
James Blake brought his full band performance to the Orpheum last week and the results were stunning. Blake is known for the careful control that he exerts over his music, often recording each element of a track himself. By shifting some of his burden to the band, Blake was able to focus on the heart of his performance. The dense and sweeping loops that Blake creates vocally pull their inspiration across genres. On record Blake’s music comes across as a bit hard to define, but live it fits perfectly in our contemporary scene. The electronic backbone of the tracks is informed by EDM but keenly aware of the burnout that scene has suffered over the past few years. His vocal style draws from classic R&B but retains something of the modern indie feel. The clarity and depth of his voice is arresting live and once again the excellence of the sound in the Orpheum accented the performance perfectly. I hope that we are going to see a lot more from Blake over the years. He is changing the way we think about the very process of making music.
Andrew Bird and Sinkane at the Civic
On Monday Sinkane opened for Andrew Bird at The Civic. This is one of those great shows where the opening act can easily stand on its own merits. I named Sinkane’s Mean Love the third best of 2014, and if the new material he played on Monday is any indication his new record will be bound for that list as well. Like Blake, Sinkane has no problem dashing the boundaries among sounds to suit his vision. Sinkane’s sound emerges from R&B and Jazz but takes on a life of its own in the hands of his band. It was quite a bit of fun to watch the members of the audience not familiar with Sinkane immediately begin to talk with one another about how great the performance was. I can’t find enough good things to about this emerging artist.
When it was first announced that Sinkane would be opening for Andrew Bird, I couldn’t make the pairing work in my mind. However, after seeing them back to back, it made perfect sense. Both artists are masters of experimentation. And both have focused their sound on the unity of vocal expression and rhythmic playfulness. Bird is something to behold live. There is a frenetic serenity to his stage presence. He jumps from violin to guitar to keys and sampling and back again, but the actions never seem rushed. He has the poise of knowing where he is in the song and what he needs to do into to achieve the sound he wants. The experience is rapturous with fans alternating between watching in wonder and swaying eyes closed as the music washes over them. The new songs sound fantastic live and they give Bird the space to play with his solo performance of the melody. I already want him to come and visit us again.
To Do This Week
Tonight Diplo will be at The Metropolitan and Paris Avenue will be at Tipitinas. Tomorrow don’t miss the Death Valley Girls at Siberia – this will be an excellent show. If the Bywater is a bit far to go, the Local Natives will be at The Civic. Saturday Kenny Rogers takes his final tour into The Saenger Theatre. On Sunday, How To Dress Well will be at the Hi-Ho. Monday, Brett Dennen will be at the Parish and Susto will be at Gasa Gasa. Tuesday, The Dandy Warhols will be at Tips and Wednesday check out Birthday Club at Siberia. It’s a great week for music as the Austin City Limits Festival bleeds over into New Orleans.
To Listen This Week
- Radiohead released a new B-side from A Moon Shaped Pool via CoS
- Stream the excellent new NOFX album via Youtube
- Watch Common’s Tiny Desk Concert from the White House via NPR