He Is Legend/The Studio At Webster Hall/November 8, 2014
Heavy metal band He Is Legend formed in 2000 by several graduating high school students in Wilmington, North Carolina. The band name was adapted from the title of Richard Matheson’s 1954 vampire novel, I Am Legend. Headlining at The Studio At Webster Hall, He is Legend performed a compelling mix of classic and nu metal styles, combining bluesy vocals with fast, crunching guitar riffs and pounding percussion. Schuylar Croom’s vocals verged on screamo while rooting itself on a basic rock and roll foundation. The overall sound was raw, gritty and forceful, and yet sometimes interjected art rock-styled mini-suites where the music slowed and lightened significantly before reengaging with a sledgehammer. At a time when so many metal bands sound alike, He Is Legend’s non-traditional and experimental hard-rocking performance was refreshing.
Whitechapel/The Gramercy Theatre/November 10, 2014
From Knoxville, Tennessee, deathcore band Whitechapel formed in 2006 and is named after the Whitechapel district in London, England, where Jack The Ripper committed a series of murders. Whitechapel returned to New York as a headliner at the Gramercy Theatre after opening for Devildriver at Stage 48 only five months ago. Whitechapel proved itself this time around with a brutal metal performance. Vocalist Phil Bozeman growled in front of a thunderous avalanche of breakdowns and metal riffs. The band came on stage to the recorded sound of the instrumental “Rise” and then launched into “Our Endless War” with manic force, as Bozeman’s growling vocals articulated an angry message citing the failure of the American system. Throughout the head-banging performance, the music remained über-intense and dynamic enough to spin one’s head. The band’s greatest weakness, however, was that although the group has three guitarists, the music failed to feature a high level of guitar leads.
Anberlin/Irving Plaza/November 13, 2014
While still in high school in 1998, vocalist Stephen Christian formed a punk band called SaGoh 24/7, which released two albums. Eventually changing direction to alternative rock, the band evolved into Anberlin in 2002, based out of Winter Haven, Florida. There were a few personnel changes, but since 2007 the band has consisted of vocalist Stephen Christian, guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney, bassist Deon Rexroat, and drummer Nathan Young. After 14 years and seven albums, Anberlin released its final album, Lowborn, on June 23, 2014.
Yahoo! Live streamed Anberlin’s concert from Irving Plaza, as the band shared its first of three New York farewell concerts with the world. Shouting out a cry of “New York,” Christian and crew ripped into a career retrospective beginning with “Never Take Friendship Personal” and “We Owe This To Ourselves.” On the third song, “Paperthin Hymn,” Christian hopped across the photo pit and stood on the rail of a barricade, holding a microphone to his mouth with one hand and balancing himself with the other by holding the outstretched hands of the fans below him. Throughout the 20-song, 90-minute set, Anberlin honed its refined sound, which blended an energetic power chord-driven hard rock base with sweet melodies and Christian’s soaring vocals. The pace slowed mid-set with “(The Symphony Of) Blasé,” “Take Me (As You Found Me)” and “The Unwinding Cable Car,” the latter song performed acoustically and dedicated to the musicians’ wives. Beyond that, Anberlin returned to its muscular radio-ready rock, finally ending with Christian crowd surfing at the end of “Feel Good Drag” and an appropriate encore of “(*Fin).” Anberlin ends its tour and its career in two weeks, and the band made every second count.
Echosmith/Webster Hall’s Marlin Room/November 14, 2014
Four siblings born in the 1990s grew up playing musical instruments in a musical household in Los Angeles, California. They formed a pop band called Echosmith in 2009. Lead vocalist Sydney Sierota (17) plays keyboards; Noah Sierota (18) plays bass; the oldest member, Jamie Sierota (21), plays guitar; the youngest member, Graham Sierota (15), plays drums. At Webster Hall’s Marlin Room, Echosmith’s original songs featured melodies and arrangements that recalled 1980s dance-pop bands. The group even covered Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” and Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” songs that were popular a decade before anyone in Echosmith was born. Sydney dedicated “Cool Kids” to “all the outcasts” and “to anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in,” affirming that “it’s okay to accept yourself for who you are and for who you aren’t.” The band ended its performance with the reggae-tinged “Nothing’s Wrong” as an encore. Throughout the night, the band performed with youthful energy and professional showmanship. Safe and simple pop music is not for everyone, but Echosmith did it well.
Kat Dahlia/The Studio At Webster Hall/November 14, 2014
Katriana Huguet’s parents emigrated from Cuba to Miami Beach, Florida, but her French surname came from her paternal great-grandparents who came to Cuba from Lebanon. Kat performed her first solo at a benefit when she was eight years old and started writing her own songs at age 15, ripping instrumentals from YouTube in lieu of a band. Kat saved money from waitressing jobs and moved to New York in 2010 in search of a music career. She settled in North Bergen, New Jersey, and became Kat Hue. Currently known as Kat Dahlia, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter and rapper will release her debut studio album, My Garden, on January 13, 2015.
At The Studio At Webster Hall, Dahlia showed an impressive range of music, including lively pop rock, smoky soul stirrers and excursions into reggae, Latin and rap. Several of her story-songs originated from her life experiences, both from being raised in a poor and fractured family and from later living in a toxic romance as a young adult. Her lyrics revealed that she remains somewhat broken and vulnerable but has emerged strong and confident. Part of her appeal live was that these sentiments are universally relatable and also inspire hope. The rest of her appeal was that she sang with a strong, sultry voice that subtly said both “get into my life” and “get out of my life.” Her concert was therapy for the broken-hearted.