Kate Nash/Bowery Ballroom/October 17, 2015
In her native London, England, Kate Nash wanted to study acting, but was rejected from several drama colleges and universities, so she worked for a fashion retailer and a restaurant chain. In 2005, she broke her foot in a fall, leaving her homebound, so she started recording demo tracks at home, uploaded her music to the internet, and became instantly popular. Nash’s 2007 debut album was a hit in the United Kingdom and she was named Best Female Artist at the 2008 BRIT Awards. This led to acting roles in four movies and a relocation to Los Angeles, California. Nash released her third and most recent album, Girl Talk, in 2013.
At the Bowery Ballroom, Nash seemed to be equal parts sensitive singer-songwriter and riot grrl. Backed by a female guitar/bass/drums trio, Nash both sang gentle songs and rocked out to stripped-down power pop songs. She alternated between a smooth voice for the softer numbers and a harsher, grittier voice for the rockers. Both voices were rather plaintive. She commanded attention, however, especially when she moved away from her guitar and keyboards to work the stage with only her microphone. The simplicity of her voice and her musical arrangements suggested that her potential audience may be found largely among teen females and their dates.
Joe Jackson/Town Hall/October 20, 2015
David Jackson was born in Burton-on-Trent, England, but grew up in the South Coast naval port city of Portsmouth. At age 11, he joined a school violin class in order to escape gym class. Jackson soon switched to piano, mainly because of his new ambition: to become a composer. He began playing in bars at the age of 16 and won a scholarship to study musical composition at London’s Royal Academy of Music. During this time, he played in various pop and cabaret bands and was given the new name Joe Jackson, the nickname based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe 90. His early albums beginning in 1979 attracted punk rock audiences, but Jackson quickly moved onto reggae, swing, Latin, jazz, classical and pop. Jackson released his 20th and most recent album, Fast Forward, on October 2, 2015. After living in New York from 1984 to 2006, Jackson now lives in Berlin, Germany.
At Town Hall, Joe Jackson performed five songs solo on the piano before bringing a band on stage. He opened with a sparse, emotive rendition of 1979’s “It’s Different For Girls” and concluded with a cover of The Beatles’ “Girl” and the title track of his current album. The band members then subtly walked on one by one, starting with longtime bassist Graham Maby, who started by thumping the bass line to “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” Songs that Jackson popularized decades ago, including “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want),” “Chinatown,” “Sunday Papers” and “Steppin’ Out” were all reworked as singer-songwriter pieces, rocking heavier as the show progressed thanks to stinging guitar work from Teddy Kumpel and driving percussion from drummer Doug Yowell. Jackson and band also rocked a season-appropriate cover of David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” and began his three encores with a cover of Television’s “See No Evil.” The concert ended with the band playing “A Slow Song,” during which the musicians left the stage one by one, leaving Jackson to conclude the show much like he started it, alone at the piano. From elegant piano ballads to racing rockers, the 61-year-old Jackson was in fine voice, and his set was a class act.
Opeth/Beacon Theatre/October 22, 2015
In 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden, a 16-year-old Mikael Åkerfeldt accepted an invitation to join the newly forming death metal and progressive rock band Opeth. The band changed personnel often, and Åkerfeldt has remained Opeth’s last founding member. The band presently consists of vocalist/guitarist Åkerfeldt, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, keyboardist Joakim Svalberg, bassist Martín Méndez and drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot . Opeth’s 11th and most recent album, Pale Communion, was released on August 26, 2014.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary as a band, Opeth performed 2005’s Ghost Reveries album in its entirety, followed by a second retrospective set. Opeth’s sound has been labeled progressive death metal; at the Beacon Theatre, even that hybrid was inadequate, as much of the music was quite soft. Not purists to any form of music, Opeth tested the boundaries of progressive rock, hard rock, death metal, acoustic folk, classical, ambient and jazz. Frequent shifting time signatures and key and chord changes manipulated each movement’s mood, and intricate and innovative prog metal oddities, particularly from the keyboards, generated curious twists. The lengthy compositions came out sounding somewhat like King Crimson with an occasional death growl. The question remains as to whether the band’s original death metal fans will continue to follow Opeth’s chameleon sound.
Adrenalin O.D./The Bowery Electric/October 23, 2015
Although based out of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, Adrenalin O.D. was born in first wave New York hardcore punk. Adrenalin O.D. existed from 1981 to 1990, and was known for playing extremely fast music accompanied by humorous lyrics. Adrenalin O.D.’s first album, The Wacky Hijinks Of Adrenalin O.D., showcased the band’s blazing speed-punk and sarcastic lyrics about suburban experience. The band’s fourth and most recent studio album, 1990’s Ishtar, was so named because, like the movie of the same name, it went way over budget and was only available for a short time before the label folded. Adrenalin O.D. reunites periodically; the present personnel includes original members Paul Richard (vocals, guitar), Jack Steeples (bass), Dave Scott Schwartzman (drums) and longtime member Bruce Wingate (guitar).
At The Bowery Electric, Adrenalin O.D.’s four musicians paused between songs, perhaps to catch their breath as well as to indulge in lighthearted chats with the audience. Occasional heavy chords leaned toward thrash metal, but with infrequent leads and bridges, the music remained rooted in primal punk. Unlike many of the bands from that period, Adrenalin O.D. did not evolve far; some 35 years after the band started, Adrenalin O.D. still had the force, speed, stamina and integrity of old.
Disclosure/Madison Square Garden/October 24, 2015
In their native Reigate, England, Howard Lawrence started playing bass at the age of eight and his younger brother Guy Lawrence started playing the drums at age three. They now comprise Disclosure, an electronic music duo. Disclosure had its first UK hit in 2012 with “Latch” (with vocals by Sam Smith). In 2013, Disclosure was scored two more hits in “White Noise” with AlunaGeorge and “You & Me” with Eliza Doolittle. Disclosure released its second studio album, Caracal, on September 25, 2015.
Headlining at Madison Square Garden, Disclosure brought a high-tech visual presentation. As the set began, each brother stepped into a u-shaped bank of electronic equipment that included keyboards, computers, samplers, MIDI controllers, cymbals and drums. Guy was stationed on the left, mostly playing drum pads and keyboards; Howard, on the right, occasionally reached for a bass to play a taut line. They were joined by guest vocalists from their albums—not the A-listers, but Eliza Doolittle on “You & Me,” Kwabs on “Willing & Able,” Lion Babe for “Hourglass” and Brendan Reilly for “Moving Mountains.” These vocalists were as much visual candy as the light show behind the performers. The trouble with the show was that with much of it pre-programmed, including the vocals of the A-listers, one had to wonder if the musicians were backing the tracks or vice versa. Members of the audience who simply wanted to hear the hits got what they came for, especially with the final encore, “Latch.” Those who were hoping for a more cutting edge live experience may have been disappointed.