Angels & Airwaves/The PlayStation Theater/September 17, 2019
Tom DeLonge received his first guitar as a Christmas present while in the sixth grade in the suburbs of Poway, California. While in high school, he co-founded Blink-182 in 1992; the band’s third album, 1999’s Enema of the State, featured three hit singles and went quadruple-platinum in the U.S., selling upwards of 15 million copies worldwide. From 2001 to 2003, DeLonge experimented with post-hardcore music on a side project called Box Car Racer, pursuing darker concepts that he felt were not suited for Blink-182. When Blink-182 dissolved in early 2005, DeLonge pursued an effects-laden progressive-inspired sound, experimenting alone in his home studio before gathering musicians to form a band. In late 2005, DeLonge announced Angels & Airwaves, which would be an alternative rock band and an “art project” encompassing various forms of media. DeLonge reunited with Blink-182 from 2009 until his dismissal from the group in 2015; during that time, DeLonge also worked on Angels & Airwaves, solo recordings, films, and business projects. Angels & Airwaves’ fifth and most recent album, 2014’s The Dream Walker, was followed by promises of films, soundtracks, and graphic novels, much of which have not yet seen light. Angels & Airwaves consists of Tom DeLonge (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass), David Kennedy (guitars, keyboards), and Ilan Rubin (drums, keyboards, bass, backing vocals).
Angels & Airwaves, featuring DeLonge, Kennedy, and Rubin, with former Taking Back Sunday bassist Matt Rubano, is on its first concert tour in seven years and headlined at the PlayStation Theater. Amid lights that flashed and blinded the audience much too frequently, the four musicians appeared on stage blasting like a rocket, launching with “Surrender” and maintaining that burst of energy for most of the set. DeLonge sang wordy lyrics well, and the band provided a wall of sound to amplify the immediacy of the sonic moments. Several songs utilized pre-programmed accompaniment, however, noticeable when keyboards or synthesizers dominated the melodies, and no one stood by the two keyboards on stage. Slower songs like “It Hurts” and “Wolfpack,” interspersed through the set, softened the band’s punch while still cracking a throbbing pulse. Midway through the set, the tempo relaxed when DeLonge sang a three-song acoustic medley of parts of Blink-182 and Box Car Racer songs. Angels & Airwaves recorded two songs earlier this year, “Rebel Girl” and “Kiss and Tell,” and rocked both towards the latter half of the set. Overall, the concert rallied and satisfied the band’s fans, but the fans left unclear as to whether Angels & Airwaves will resume the recording and touring regiment of earlier years.
Adam Ant/The Beacon Theatre/September 19, 2019
Born and raised in London, Stuart Goddard, better known by his stage name, Adam Ant, was at the right place at the right time when his band, Adam and the Ants, joined the burgeoning punk rock and new wave movements in 1977. The “Antmania” that ensued in United Kingdom was not duplicated in the United States, where Adam and the Ants developed a cult following. Disbanding the group in 1982, Ant launched a solo career with Friend or Foe, to date his best-selling solo album. Ant paused his musical career in 1985 to focus on his acting career. In recent years, Ant’s output in both recording and acting has diminished, but he has significantly increased his touring. His sixth and most recent solo album is 2013’s Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter; the subsequent Bravest of the Brave has been promised since 2014 but still has no release date.
Following the success of the 2017 tour in which he played the Kings of the Wild Frontier album in full, Adam Ant embarked on a 2019-2020 tour in which he is performing his Friend or Foe album in its entirety. At the Beacon Theatre, Ant and his band (guitarists Will Crewdson and A.P. Leach, bassist Joe Holweger, and drummers Andy Woodard and Jola) performed the album and then played more than a dozen other signature songs. Periodically, Ant played guitar and Crewsdon, Leach, and Holweger played floor tom drums for a thunderous tribal sound. The weaker moments (as in Ant’s cover of the Doors’ “Hello, I Love You”), the curious moments (“Goody Two Shoes” performed without horns), and the liveliest moments (the rousing “Antmusic,” the big percussion sound on “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” and the call-and-response of “Beat My Guest”) made for an exciting show. The outcome was lighthearted party music, not messages with deep meaning, and Ant’s fans would not want it any other way.
Bloc Party/SummerStage Central Park/September 20, 2019
Kele Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, sampler) and Russell Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards) first met in 1998 in London. A chance encounter at a music festival in 1999 led to them committing to forming a band. They used several names before settling on Bloc Party in 2003. The band got its break after Okereke gave a demo copy of “She’s Hearing Voices” to radio personality Steve Lamacq. Lamacq subsequently played the song on his program, labeling the track “genius,” and invited Bloc Party to record a live session for the show. In 2005, Bloc Party’s debut album, Silent Alarm, went certified platinum, selling more than a million copies worldwide. After more successes, the band went on a hiatus in 2009 to focus on side projects. The musicians reunited from 2011 to 2013, then resumed the hiatus to continue with their respective side projects. In 2015, Okereke and Lissack recruited Justin Harris (bass guitar, keyboards, saxophones, backing vocals) and Louise Bartle (drums, percussion) and released Bloc Party’s fifth and most recent studio album, Hymns, in 2016. Bloc Party has sold over three million albums worldwide.
Bloc Party began playing its seminal 2005 debut album in its entirety in Europe in 2018 and this summer brought the Silent Alarm concert to select cities in the United States. Although it was the current incarnation of the band and not the original lineup that originally recorded the album, the SummerStage concert at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield showed the maturity of the band’s vision, as the album was performed with perhaps more finesse than on the original recording. Okereke and Lissack drove the songs, but the subtle star of the evening was Bartle, whose imaginative drumming turned the songs into suites. Perhaps acknowledging the dichotomy that albums generally start with the strongest songs and concerts end with these heavy hitters, Bloc Party played the album in reverse order. Beginning with the softer and more ambient songs, the band worked its way to the crowd-pleasing indie-rockers. The band also included UK bonus track “Little Thoughts.” For the encore, the band returned with two Silent Alarm era b-sides and three later songs. The current Bloc Party proved it can play its old songs perhaps better than ever.
King Crimson/Radio City Music Hall/September 21, 2019
In 1967 in Dorset, England, guitarist Robert Fripp first recorded with a psychedelic pop trio called Giles, Giles, and Fripp. Upon seeing Clouds perform live, Fripp was inspired to incorporate classical melodies and jazz improvisation in his compositions. Musicians were added and others left, such that by 1968 the original band was no more and had evolved into what would become King Crimson, the forerunner of the progressive rock movement. Seemingly with each album, King Crimson’s membership changed radically, quickly leaving Fripp as the only consistent member. Fripp disbanded King Crimson in 1974, reformed a new line-up in 1981 for three years, revamped it in 1994 for another three-year cycle, revived it from 2000 to 2008, and most recently restored the brand in 2013. King Crimson presently consists of Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk (lead vocals, guitar, flute, keyboards), Mel Collins (saxophones, flute, bass flute, mellotron, backing vocals), Tony Levin (bass, Chapman stick, synthesizers, backing vocals), and three drummers, Pat Mastelotto, Jeremy Stacey, and Gavin Harrison. King Crimson’s 13th and most recent studio album is 2003’s The Power to Believe; since that album, the band has released numerous live albums, with the band’s 15th live album, Audio Diary 2014–2018, released on September 27, 2019.
At Radio City Music Hall, King Crimson reflected on 50 years of creative, mind-bending music, and yet reproduced not one song as it was originally recorded. Rather than remain a static treasury, the catalogue was given new breath. Frequently a song began with some familiar strokes before the musicians began deconstructing and refashioning them in a manner suitable to the strengths of the current musicians. In an unusual move, three drummers held the front line, with the remaining four musicians on platforms behind them. Throughout the set, the drum syncopation was uncanny and mesmerizing, featuring beats upon beats. The back line of saxophone, keyboards, guitar, and bass propelled the music into futuristic arrangements. There were several passages where the musicians’ expansive improvisation leaned towards directionless noodling, but before long, another musician barged in and charged forward, igniting a new dynamic chaos. Jakszyk’s swooning vocal melodies, much like those of his predecessors Greg Lake and John Wetton, then calmed the frenetic storm and grounded the compositions. Being present to the music in the court of King Crimson was at times dizzying, but consistently instilled a sense of awe.
(Editor’s Note: Photography is strictly prohibited at King Crimson performances, though Robert Fripp graciously took photos with—and of—the audience afterwards.)