Tuesday, May 15, 2007

in the presence of that talented bastard

To make it up to me for not getting to see Arcade Fire, The South found me a show to see.

The RM, The Can, The South and I went to see That Talented Bastard Ben Gibbard when he came to town for a solo show. He was here with Johnathan Rice and David Bazan.

Johnathan Rice was okay. The last song he played was kind of brilliant actually. And he got us all to sing along about how We were all stuck out in the desert and we're gonna die - wipe that salt and sand from your blistering eyes. The rest of his set was so so.

David Bazan plays guitar with rock solid rhythm. His voice is curious but appealing and he sings songs with titles like "shit talk" or a song written to a music critic called "Selling Advertising." Suffice it to say that I am madly in love with him and so disappointed that he is married.

That Talented Bastard Ben Gibbard then took the stage and did his thing. It was pretty amazing. Mind you, I don't know that much of his oeuvre. I am one of the unwashed. I have the Postal Service album. It's a great record. I probably should put it on my list of great albums and the songs stand up to acousticization. But I don't know his solo work and I don't know that many (if any) Death Cab for Cutie songs. It was a pretty decent introduction. That Talented Bastard is a very articulate singer. The beauty of an articulate singer is that you don't have to know the song to hear the lyrics.

(Lyle Lovett is an articulate singer. MomVee is an articulate singer. Now that
I have - for the most part - stopped trying to channel R&B and soul divas, I aspire to be an articulate singer too.)

The words sung cleanly and clearly and with such melancholy. Every once in a while I would cover my mouth with my hand in surprise at a turn of phrase or an image. At other points I would gasp and squeeze some appendage belonging to the South in utter amazement. Talented Bastard

There was one letdown. He did a cover of "All Apologies" on the piano. He can barely play piano. It was just wrong. It was a crime against Nirvana. I'm not saying that a cover must be true to the original. I'm not saying that a cover must be expressed in the spirit of the original. But it was just so impossibly earnest - no edge. It was gross.

One misstep for a Talented Bastard. Only one.

At some point during the show my mind wandered ever so slightly to the documentary "We Jam Econo" about the Minutemen. There's this show that they played where the crowd spit on them. They were covered in spit and loogies. And they kept playing. The spit flew into their mouths when they were singing. And they kept playing. They broke strings. In the end D. Boone and Mike Watt were playing on maybe two strings a piece but they went right on through.

And sitting there in the Town Hall theater, I wondered what Ben Gibbard would do if that happened to him. Would he keep playing? I don't know. I think he might.

I'm pretty sure that The South - provided he had a little liquor in him would spit back and keep playing. I'm pretty sure that EH would as well.

Would I keep playing? I'd like to think that I would but probably not. I am more likely to run from the stage in tears.

Most of the time it doesn't happen but any night that you get up there it could.

Whether the house is full or empty - they might boo. They might spit and throw things at you. They might mock you or ignore you or they might turn around and leave you. They might come up and hug you or try to tear off your clothes or your face. They might tear the mic away from you and do their own thing.

You just don't know. On any given night, it could happen.

On this night it didn't. Such a Talented Bastard, New York wouldn't dare!


Groucho Castaneda said...

1. EH probably wouldn't spit back (he just doesn't take get off by spitting on people), but he'd definitely keep playing, and start whipping out some of the weirder songs from his back catalog in an effort to further antagonize the audience.

In the past, there have been incidents where audience members struck EH with thrown ash trays and beer bottles, only to have EH whip said ash tray or beer bottle back at them with considerably greater force and accuracy.

2. Hopefully you can find a happy median between soul and articulation, such as Annie Lennox, Dusty Springfield, and many other British soul divas have achieved in the past.

3. For me, Ben Gibbard is like Robert Plant and Perry Farrel. When I'm in the right mood for his music, he's God. When I'm not, I want to reach through the speaker and choke him.

ergo said...

gc: After that show I have a crush on all the boys who wear that eyeglass frame. It's a little tiring. There are a lot of them in NYC.