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More Futurism

Wednesday July 5, 2006

On a decidedly un-prog note, I saw The Futureheads on Friday at the lovely Webster Hall in New York. My devotion to this band is more or less obsessive; I own every EP, 7", and CD single that they've released in their brief existence, and let me assure you: that's a lot of music. They are one of those devious British bands who will release a single in three parts- say, two CDs and a picture 7"- and each will have an exclusive b-side. Bastards! It helps that a lot of those non-album cuts are really good, but still, this is a band that's released only two full length albums and yet I own some two dozen or so Futureheads items.

Anyway, the show was great. We were lucky enough to miss most of the opener, The French Kicks, who play the most generic indy guitar pop you can possibly imagine. I just don't understand how a band can put so little into its stage show. Have these men never seen a good live band? Can they possibly imagine that it's at all entertaining to watch five stone-faced indy rockers just stand there? One of the guitarists looked like he couldn't fucking wait until the concert was over and he could punch out. I curse The French Kicks and their dire kind!

The Futureheads came on promptly at 9:00 and rocked hard for just about an hour, including a two song encore. 60 minutes doesn't seem like a lot, but they probably played 20 songs! That's a lot of hooks! They played almost all of the new album (minus "News and Tributes," "Face," and possibly "Worry About it Later), plus quite a few tunes from the debut ("Decent Days and Nights," "A to B," "Meantime," "Carnival Kids," "He Knows, "Hounds of Love," "Man Ray," and "Stupid and Shallow"), and "Area," but nothing else from their various EPs or singles. The first time I saw them, just after their debut was released, they played songs from their earliest recordings, plus most of that first album, and they still only managed a 45 minute set. It felt like they played every song they knew, although probably they could have whipped out one or two more (tops!) if they needed to. Now, they're an established band. They don't have time for all those old b-sides. Oh well. It's not like I really wanted to hear "Piece of Crap."

There are a few things that make The Futureheads a great live band. First off, they have an incredible number of ridiculously catchy songs. They write the sort of pure pop where even if you've never heard the song before, you can capably sing along by the end. Second, they're very energetic and very tight. All four guys contribute to the harmonies, and they're spot on, every time. They're like The Eagles, except not old and boring. Lastly, they visibly enjoy themselves when playing, and they share that enthusiasm with the crowd. They crack jokes. They offer their thanks to the audience. Is this so hard? Obviously, there are valid approaches to live music that do not involve congenial banter (I wouldn't want Ogre from Skinny Puppy to crack wise on stage), but in most cases, a crappy live band could become at least a serviceable live band by just loosening up and sharing their fun with the crowd. Nevermind the weakness of The French Kick's material: do they even enjoy performing it? If so, you'd never know. If the band can't have fun at their concert, how on earth can the audience? I feel like I probably belabor this point every time I see a rotten band, but it's a point that bears repeating. In fact, I may well repeat it later this month when I see this tour again in Philadelphia on July 25 at the new-to-me Starlight Ballroom.

On a final note, I feel I need to address the bartending situation at Webster Hall. While I was fully prepared for the ass-rape that is New York drink pricing, I couldn't believe how awful the bartenders were! They were slow, surly, and generally worthless. I daresay they were the worst bartenders I have ever experienced, although to their credit, at least they poured their $10 mixed drinks strong. Small miracles, etc.

Posted by Matt at 03:50 PM | Comments (5)

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