Editors/Irving Plaza/May 15, 2018
Born in Northampton, England, Editors front person Tom Smith spent his early years in Stroud, Gloucestershire, where he learned to play the guitar. He met his future band mates while attending university and living in Birmingham. They first performed in 2002 as Pilot until they learned that another band by that name had hit records in the 1970s. They became the Pride and then after a personnel change became Snowfield in 2003. Upon signing to a record label they changed their band’s name to Editors. Editors achieved success in the United Kingdom, scoring two platinum-selling albums, but has not yet notched a parallel fame in the United States. The band currently consists of Smith (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Russell Leetch (bass, synthesizers), Ed Lay (drums), Justin Lockey (lead guitar), and Elliott Williams (keyboards, synthesizers, guitars). Editors’ sixth and most recent album, Violence, was released on March 9, 2018.
Editors’ first American tour in eight years brought the band to Irving Plaza, where the band performed six songs from its newest album and two or three songs from each of its previous albums. Editors’ sound was big and full, often driven by a danceable beat and searing guitar leads. Although Smith possesses a four and a half octave vocal range, the center of gravity was a husky, emotive coloring seemingly soaked with angst and wounds. Ambiguous lyrics enhanced an aura of mystery. If the band commits to working the American market, expect Editors to headline arenas and stadiums in the near future.
Liam Gallagher/Rumsey Playfield/May 16, 2018
Liam Gallagher‘s brothers, Paul and Noel Gallagher, often contend that even from a young age, Liam went out of his way to antagonize people, especially Noel, with whom he shared a bedroom while growing up in Burnage, a suburb of Manchester, England. The young Liam reportedly had no interest in music until a rival student hit him in the head with a hammer; after this incident, Liam allegedly became infatuated with the idea of joining a band. A school friend invited Liam to join his band, the Rain, as a vocalist. In 1991, with the addition of Noel, Rain became Oasis — one of the pioneers of the 1990s Britpop movement. Oasis sold more than 70 million records worldwide. In 2009, the ever-feuding brothers split Oasis; Noel launched Noel Gallagher & His High Flying Birds, and Liam with the former Oasis musicians formed Beady Eye. After two albums, Beady Eye split in 2014 and Liam embarked on a solo career. Liam Gallagher’s one solo album, As You Were, was released on Oct. 6, 2017.
Hundreds of fans at Central Park Summerstage‘s Rumsey Playfield endured a constant drizzle during the solo acoustic set by opener Richard Ashcroft of the Verve, but the rain stopped for Liam Gallagher’s set. Wearing a long parka, Gallagher swaggered to the edge of the stage as his band ripped into the opening chords of Oasis’ “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.” Gallagher then anchored himself behind the microphone stand, assuming his signature stance, slightly crouching chin-up to the microphone with his hands resting above his buttocks. Gallagher rarely strayed from this post and position, only occasionally shaking a tambourine or a pair of maracas. Gallagher roared with his distinctive snarly, throaty voice, and the tight band supported him well. Although Gallagher was establishing his credentials as a solo artist, the set list was dominated by Oasis songs seven to five; the set excluded Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” however, which Gallagher this year has sung abroad only. At present, there is no Oasis, so for fans Liam Gallagher’s energetic concert was perhaps nearly as satisfying.
Pussy Riot/Elsewhere, Brooklyn/May 17, 2018
Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova, her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were members of Voina, a Russian street-art group known for their provocative and politically charged works of performance art, from the group’s early days in 2007. They split from the main group in St. Petersburg and formed a separate Moscow-based group, also named Voina. Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich then founded Pussy Riot in Moscow in 2011 as a feminist collective staging illegal guerrilla performances that voiced dissident art and political action united by feminism, anti-authoritarianism and opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Pussy Riot’s many controversial protests made headlines in Russia but the group gained global notoriety when five members of the group staged a performance inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 2012; that three members were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism led to an international outcry. In 2015, Pussy Riot released its first song and video in English. Pussy Riot has released seven songs and five videos, but have not released a conventional album.
Pussy Riot’s first North American tour promised that it would be more of a political event than a concert. Unlike Pussy Riot’s spontaneous and illegal performance art events in Russia, tickets would be sold for the American events, which a press release described as “a subversive mix of activist art and live set.” That series including an engagement at Elsewhere in Brooklyn. That event began with a lengthy pre-recorded political statement and video projection. Tolokonnikova then came on stage along with a disc jockey and two dancers, one of whom was the opening act, American-born Dorian Electra. All wore colorful sportswear and Pussy Riot’s trademark balaclavas (ski masks), which obscured their faces. The high-tech political rally aspect prior to Tolokonnikova’s appearance was refined for an impactful execution, but Tolokonnikova’s politicized marriage of performance art and concert proved less riveting due to all the dancing and pop melodies. Tolokonnikova’s raps were sometimes projected on the large screen backdrop. “Bad Apples” suggested that the best place to find some politicians was in their graves. “Straight Outta Vagina” was a feminist statement. Were all the vocals live? At times, even the vocals appeared to be prerecorded. Nevertheless, as the intent of the electro hip hop songs was to serve as a medium for Pussy Riot’s pro-freedom and equality message, then this aim also was accomplished.
Graham Parker/City Winery/May 21, 2018
Born in London, England, and raised in nearby Deepcut, Graham Parker worked odd jobs in his late teens, purchased an acoustic guitar and learned to fingerpick and write songs. He left England for Paris, France, then hitchhiked from Spain to Morocco, ultimately moving to Gibraltar; there he joined a psychedelic band named Pegasus, which he changed to Terry Burbot’s Magic Mud. In 1972 Parker returned to England and lived with his parents, worked at a petrol station, and pursued a career in music. After a few demo tapes gained industry attention, he formed Graham Parker & the Rumour in 1975 and built a reputation as an incendiary live act. By the 1980s Parker began recording under his own name and briefly linked with the Shots and the Figgs, eventually reuniting with the Rumour some 30 years later from 2012 to 2015. With and without the bands, Parker gained consistent critical acclaim and sustained a substantial cult following but never achieved widespread success. In April 2018, Parker released a new single titled “Dreamin'”, and announced that an accompanying album was forthcoming.
In recent months, Graham Parker has been performing acoustic solo concerts regularly at City Winery venues in New York and other cities. Parker as an acoustic solo artist turned out to be radically different from Parker as a rocking band leader. Leading the Rumour in the 1970s, Parker punched passionate vocals with a barbed edge, giving them a distant don’t-come-close guard-dog barrier. Now 67 years old, Parker transitioned anger to a softer sweetness that made the same songs sound approachably personal. Between songs, Parker shared humorous, whimsical reflections that might not have suited his somewhat acerbic persona of yesteryear. The connecting fiber was the soulful delivery that Parker mastered since his earliest beginnings. The kernel of the material now was the song itself rather than the boom of the band delivery, to where a song like “I Discovered America” sounded folkie and tender for the first time. Parker proved that he is a classic artist worth a listen whether solo or with a band.