Ménage à Trois
Three shows, one week:
Morrissey at the Palladium
Man, except for the slight paunch, he really hasn't changed. In fact, the paunch proves it: Morrissey wouldn't be Morrissey if he were perched atop a Stairmaster. He zips professionally, if also in a somewhat detached manner, through a set of oldies but goodies: "The Boy With the Thorn In His Side," "How Soon Is Now?," "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and a smattering of new ones. Even as he clearly just wants the hell out of the joint, reeking as it does of barbecue from the countrified wedding reception next door ("My ass is out of here in 10 minutes," he petulantly informs the audience at the beginning of his encore), the Moz puts on a hell of a show, and all eyes are on him as he touches hands, winks, shimmies and even, at one dramatic point, falls to the floor and somehow contorts himself into a kind of body-wrenching, upside-down position that resembles a dexterous sleeping cat. No one cares about the band, as long as they can competently reproduce Johnny Marr's guitar licks, they will do. It's about Morrissey, even with his aging face and a voice that is beginning, finally, to falter, he still is the centerpiece. He is still intense.
Everyone sings along; everyone focuses on this handsome icon with large pictures of James Dean peering out behind him; everyone smiles. We are enraptured, of course, standing in the crowd, folks ranging from 15 to 50, all geeking out on this singular example of performer.
Animal Collective at the Granada
Couldn't be more different. Whereas Morrissey's show was about him more than us, the Animal Collective show was about, well, the collective. Three guys, hunched over laptops and keyboards and different percussion instruments (but, really, mainly laptops), oblivious to the audience. Each of them stands, stooped over, at oblique angles to the audience. They aren't even looking at us. They are wearing non-descript T-shirts and trousers. They are intense yet casual, jamming out with a flow of soundscapes made of noisy bits and bytes, sudden crescendos of kettle drums and odd little vocals.
The crowd loves it almost as much as the Morrissey crowd loved their god but not quite. Still, about 100 members of the audience bob up and down in unison, dancing to this music that, for all its glory, should be impossible to dance to. The hipsters are grinning, and for once the teenagers in the balcony have shut up, quit their awkward flirting and are actually paying attention to something.
Interpol at the Palladium
Would this show have been better if it had been held at the Gypsy Tea Room?
Hard to say. One thing's for certain: Interpol puts on a tight, efficient show, equal parts drummed-up drama and genuine proficiency. The group doesn't move around much, and there aren't that many rock star moves. They prefer to let the special effects do it for them—they seemed to be pushing TXU's capacity to the max, with strobes and purple-tinged bulbs and rotating contraptions that resembled heat lamps lasering in on the crowd. Turn on the bright lights, y'all.
It works. There is dancing and the requisite sing-alongs. I'm having flashbacks to the first time I heard the Cure, and that's OK. Teenagers are making out and that's OK too. A guy who looks completely out of place with his ghetto-fabulous Dolce & Gabbana hat pumps his fist, and that's OK too. Somehow, Interpol has synthesized the aesthetic of both Morrissey and Animal Collective, shaping themselves into an iconic group. As they nail pretty much every '80s guitar riff, every dark, deep vocal part and—especially important—every rad nouveau disco drumbeat, they are more than the sum of their parts.
It's been a good week.
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