George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow, released a pretty fantastic album in September, so I was interested to hear how the music would translate in a live setting. The album’s drums are loopy and repetitive, so I wondered if he would go it alone or bring in a hired gun for the live show. He obliged, bringing in a troll-haired master of the skins whose powerful drumming nearly stole the show. The synths are straight out of Purple Rain and so I was curious if they would be handled by a leotard-wearing Prince fan or a member of The Revolution. Thankfully, Lewis decided to enlist the help of a synth whiz who looked liked the kind of girl Prince would confuse with come-ons and flirtations before making her jump in Lake Minnetonka and driving away on his automobile formerly known as a motorcycle.
Lewis and his band nailed all of the best moments from Forget. “Slow” stood out as one of the highlights of the night. The synths layed out arpeggios that fluttered around Lewis’ shredtastic guitar. The urgency behind Lewis’ lyrics, “I don’t want to believe or be in love/I don’t want to be believing love” were not lost on the crowd as more than a few raised their hands and sang along.
Twin Shadow’s performance seems like one guy being backed by a few hired guns rather than a cohesive unit. That’s probably because that’s exactly what it is. Lewis wrote the songs and there’s no doubt who the star of the show is. He wears the attention well, but the set was missing a little energy. This hipster-ish music (from a self-proclaimed hipster—sigh) doesn’t exactly lend itself to crowdsurfing and moshing and windmill guitar strums, but a little more movement and interaction between members would have been cool. Lewis was especially chilled out for someone who used to be in a punk band (gasp!).
Lewis might be one of the best-dressed men in New York, according to Time Out New York, but it was Jamie Lidell‘s ensemble that stole the fashion show. For better or for worse. When his band took the stage I knew to look for the skinny white dude who looks like he could maybe hammer out a few Coldplay covers on your friend’s piano at a party while everyone in the room stood with their arms folded uncomfortably wondering who invited Stevie “Wonder-why-this-guy-thinks-he-can-play-music.” When Lidell took the stage I had no trouble picking him out. The suit he was wearing was torn to ribbons and fluttered around him like confetti paper on a piñata. I would have expected nothing less from a guy whose last album was produced by the gypsy fashionisto and musical madman Beck.
Turns out, Lidell brought more to the table than a painful-to-hear cover of “The Scientist.” Now to the adherents of the Church of Lidell, you’ll have to excuse my ignorance. I generally don’t ever listen to “first and last name” bands. Most of the first and last name bands just suck. They often turn out to be country (Tim McGraw, Billy Ray Cyrus..ugh) or the offspring of Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley Cyrus…ugghh) or annoyingly catchy one hit wonders (Lou Bega. Ha. I just got Mambo #5 stuck in your head) or chill-bro-rock (John Mayer, Jack Johnson). I know, I know. The system needs some revision. How do you account for Sufjan Stevens? Johnny Greenwood? J. Beibz? I need to find a new way of writing off a lot of bands with overly broad generalizations. But that’s not the point. The point is, Jamie Lidell provided yet another dent in the armor of my once full-proof system.
So I was not expecting this dude to open his mouth and channel his inner Stevie Wonder but he had a new convert by the end of “Gypsy Blood,” the closing track to his latest, Compass. Halfway through the set, Lidell cemented my conversion when his band left him alone on stage and he began beat boxing and singing. The looping went on for about 10 minutes before he was rejoined by his band and the set was closed out in the same way it began: energetically. Lidell pranced around the stage and crooned into the mic like a reincarnation of some 70s soul singer. The crowd, including his newly converted fanboy journalist ate it up.
Jamie Lidell and Twin Shadow performed at Antone’s on Sept. 24.