Adventure Galley came out swinging at 94/7's latest "I Saw Them When" show on Tuesday night, with no introduction and a minimum of fuss. The Portland band has done double duty this month as an opener, first at the Knox Hamilton/Colony House show and then for My Goodness, and although they're still a little rough around the edges at times, they definitely brought their A Game for their appearance at the Crystal Ballroom, with improved (even from earlier this month) song transitions and an ever-more confident stage presence. This is definitely the best Portland's pirates have ever sounded.
And now let's talk about My Goodness. I'll admit that I didn't immediately fall in love with "Cold Feet Killer" the first few times I heard it, but hearing them live really changed my perspective on the band. These guys know how to rock. From the minute the Seattle band took to the stage, they immediately turned the volume up to 11 (both literally and figuratively) and kept it there for there the duration of the show. It was the loudest, hardest-rocking and most energetic show I've seen at the Crystal in quite some time, and the crowd ate up every second of it - stamping their feet on the floor before the encore so enthusiastically that the sound reverberated throughout the venue like thunder.
When the lights finally went up at the Crystal, I turned to my friend standing next to me and uttered a phrase that I have seldom - if ever - used when it reviewing concerts: "That was pretty metal, man!" And I wasn't lying - it was.
To say that Lykke Li has stage presence would be a little bit of an understatement. From the moment she emerged from the smoke on Friday night, the Swedish singer took command of the crowd at the Crystal Ballroom and never let up for an instant. Although her vocal stylings definitely swing to the indie side of “indie pop” (at times she sounsd like a cross between Lorde & Lana del Rey), in concert she displays the performance acumen of a rock star, wailing and hanging from her mic stand and making liberal use of the fog machine.
Lykke Li attacked her set with relentless intensity – there were no pauses, no breaks, no throwaway songs – just one riveting performance after another, including her singles “Little Bit” and “No Rest For the Wicked,” along with a sultry cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” and a barn-burning rendition of “Get Some” at the end of her set. Although Lykke Li professes to be only “a little bit in love” in the song, everyone at the Crystal was definitely a lot in like with her peformance.
You know how you call tell that Priory is from Portland? They drop words like "Proletariat" into an otherwise light-hearted song about enjoying the weekend. The band received an appropriately populist welcome from the masses gathered at Wonder Ballroom on Sunday night. Although they've been around for half a decade - and used to be a regular fixture back on the Portland circuit, back in the day - they've recently broken into the national spotlight with the aforementioned single, "Weekend." With a retro-tinged sound that mixes teen rock vocals and melodic guitar work, I wouldn't be surprised if we see Priory making an appearance on the soundtrack for a summer comedy, before too long. (My first thought upon hearing "Weekend" is that it would've been perfect for the Adventureland soundtrack, had it come out five years earlier.)
Middle opener Halsey bills herself as a "rap-game Winona Ryder," and while I'm not sure if that's the appellation that I would've given her, she pulled off an impressive pop performance (albeit a slightly incongruous one, given her placement on the evening's lineup). With breathy, staccato vocals, Halsey sounds a little bit like Ellie Goulding, but with far edgier sensibilities. Playing the Wonder on the eve of her 20th birthday, the blue-haired singer delivered an energetic set that included her single "Ghost" and a delightful cover of The Killer's "When You Were Young."
It's been a minute since we've seen The Kooks, but time hasn't dulled the band's chops, any. The British rockers are straight-up rock stars, these days, and the crowd welcomed them accordingly, collectively losing their minds when they heard the first few bars of "She Moves In Her Own Way." Although there's a retro sensibility to almost all of the band's music, the bluesy acoustic-driven sound that permeated songs like "Naive" and "Always Where I Need to Be" has given way to an edgier, funkier sound on songs like "Around Town" and "Down." Lead singer Luke Pritchard is a treat to watch live, too - prowling the stage with a stature that's equal parts Mark Foster and Mick Jagger.
For veteran music lovers, the name Ben Folds immediately evokes waves of nostalgia. Anyone who listened to alternative rock in the 90’s probably remembers Ben Folds Five and their quintessential downer hit, “Brick.” Likewise, I’m sure many “old-timers” remember Folds’ first solo album, “Rockin’ The Suburbs.” As the new millennium wore on, however, it seemed that Ben Folds had settled into a position on the peripherary of the alt-rock universe – delving further into moody introspection (2005’s “Songs For Silverman”) and dabbling with pop sensibilities (2008’s catchy but very mainstream duet with Regina Spektor). So it was with some curiosity that I plodded into the Arlene Schnitzer Concert hall to see Mssr. Folds and the Oregon Symphony. Which incarnation of Ben Folds would we see?
Thoughts From Last Night has discussed well over 100 bands in the past year – and while I don’t like to indulge too heavily in hyperbole, Ben Folds’ performance on Saturday night was arguably one of the best and most unique shows we’ve ever covered. Backed by the Oregon Symphony, Folds treated concertgoers to a performance that interwove lush orchestral arrangements with songs from throughout both his Ben Folds Five days and his solo catalog, regularly punctuated by rambling and often hilarious annecdotes. Early in the evening, the Symphony performed the third movement of Folds’ recent piano concerto, a percussion-heavy piece with hints of George Winston & Aaron Copland. Later, he treated the audience to a rendition of his famous improvisational song, “Rock this B****.” While the idea of anyone improvising a song on the fly is pretty impressive, to witness someone improvise an entire orchestral arrangement was nothing short of astounding.
Towards the end of evening, after a brief soapbox moment about the importance of symphonies (Folds referred to them as the “pinnacle of civilization”) and supporting the arts, Ben got the audience to provide a three-part harmony for “Not the Same.” Combined with the symphony and the acoustics of the Schnitz, it was a moment of rare beauty and kismet, and it made me think that perhaps this was how Ben Folds always envisioned his songs being performed; maybe he was just making due with a band all this time.