The word ‘seminal’ gets tossed around a bit cavalierly these days, when any decent band with a pulse and a couple of dusty records are suddenly reissued on some boutique label, and are suddenly yanked out of obscurity and proclaimed the as long-lost Beatles or some such nonsense. Martin Phillipps is a rare case of underselling that particular adjective. As the man responsible for some of tightest, most sweetly crafted pop songs emanating from a farflung corner of the world, the packed room at The Middle East was buzzing with excitement.
If you are wondering what he’s been doing since the last time they played town (was 1996 really that long ago?), you can refer to the preview published a few days ago. Phillipps and his crack band breathed new life into the classics and the new material nestled in like a long-lost twin sibling. The fairly short but sweet set at ~70 minutes hit all the right marks, from the sublimely perfect and oh-so-aptly titled “Heavenly Pop Hit” to the mid-tempo soul-bearer of “Deep Belief,” and especially the song that Phillipps proclaimed a song of optimism (despite the current leader), “America Says Hello.” A sideways love song in “Wet Blanket” showcased the supple bass lines of James Dickson, and the ever-lovely yet subtly harrowing “Pink Frost” had the timeless chiming chords burrowing in skulls all around the room. The encore closed with another song about a vanished friend, with the rave-up guitar lines punctuated by Erica Scally’s keyboard lines that carried the melody. A much needed return from a true master of songwriting; Martin, don’t wait a few decades until the next time!
NYC-based quintet Brion Starr played the tour kickoff in Gotham the night before and traveled up with the band to lend support again. Starr’s backing band and their youthful visages suggested that they might have had a hard time actually gaining entrance to club had they not been playing that night, but they have definitely checked out their parent’s Velvet Underground collection.
Photos from both bands:
Created with flickr slideshow.