Concert review: Blonde Redhead shakes off subdued crowd at the Pageant, Monday, October 25
It was clear from the start that Blonde Redhead lets its music do the talking. There were no hellos and just a few thank yous during the group’s tight 80-minute set Monday night at the Pageant. The band took the stage to a sea of flickering yellow lights that mimicked candle flames as umbrella lights adorned the backdrop, reflecting gold light across the band members. The moody lighting created more of a theater feel than one of your typical rock concert.
That feeling only solidified more as red-headed singer Kazu Mokino took the stage wearing sparkly black vinyl pants and an odd white mask with blonde hair attached to it, making her appear as if she were an ominous character out of a fantasy production.
“Black Guitar” opened the set, a track off Penny Sparkle, the band’s most recent effort. Brothers Simone Pace (guitar, vocals) and Amedeo Pace (drums) were in tight sync with Mokino as one may expect after the trio’s 17 years together. Clearly this is a veteran group with a firm grip on its live show. The stage sound and house mix were nearly flawless.
It was difficult to take your eyes off of Mokino as she danced and swayed to some of the more uptempo numbers. Her hair covered her face, keeping her anonymous throughout the entire evening. Simone was equally enthusiastic, showcasing on guitar the underlying noisy, rock elements to the band’s sound. The performance was captivating and energetic, and the set design created an appropriately dark atmosphere for the music.
Still, something seemed a bit detached about the evening.
The crowd in attendance was fairly sparse, as even with the balcony closed, the venue’s main floor was only perhaps half full. For a smaller crowd the energy was pretty good, but something just didn’t feel quite right about the spirit of the show. Perhaps it was the lack of interaction with the crowd on the band’s part coupled with the empty chairs in the audience.
The songs that relied more heavily on electronic sequences came across a bit stale in the live setting. The arrangements simply were not adjusted from the studio versions and relied too heavily on backing tracks. Nevertheless, several moments really galvanized the crowd, who seemed to hold strong affections for the songs played off of the 2007 album, 23.
Highlights of the evening definitely included “Dr. Strangeluv” with its abundance of catchy guitar licks that Simone pulled off with distorted perfection.
“23 seconds, all things we love will die,” sang Mokino in her ethereal style, her voice as fragile as glass and yet as soaring as clouds, during an animated performance of “23,” which garnered a large crowd response.
The show really peaked during “Melody of Certain Three” off of Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. “But in spite of all that, all is well….all is well,” sang Simone to a background of relentless guitar and percussion. Amedo really keeps the sound together with his onslaught of catchy beats and technical fills. The blend of sequences and live drums is seamless, merging the two together into a harmonious collective of rhythm.
After a brief intermission to a cheering crowd, the band returned for a 3-song encore that was fairly mellow. The musicians departed quickly after a few thank yous; then the house lights came on. For a band with a sound so huge and dynamic as Blonde Redhead’s, the music would have seemed more appropriate in a packed New York City venue or in a European nightclub. Regardless, the group played with much skill and passion, and the seductiveness of Mokino was nothing to scoff at.