Friday, February 12, 2016

A Joyous Night of Rock Revival - Graveyard Concert Review

The Brooklyn Bowl is, to say the least, a unique place to see a show.  Naturally, when a common concert attendee sees the name ‘Bowl,’ the natural assumption is that we’re talking about a place shaped like an amphitheater, indoors or out, capable of pristine audio and a thoroughly dignified concert experience.  The Brooklyn Bowl by contrast, while certainly dignified and in possession of pretty good aural reproduction, nevertheless asserts its name in a different fashion, as a fully functional bowling alley, in companionship with the normal amenities of a concert venue.  While a pleasant surprise, the sensation of walking in for the first time is not unlike Otto Mann’s reaction on “The Simpsons” upon leaving a store called ‘Stoner’s Pot Emporium.”

The night began with Spiders, the four-piece retro rock act that is bravely trying to change the common musical word association with “The Gothenburg Scene.”  To lead the evening was the power and circumstance of “Mad Dog,” the band’s best riff and most infectious song, which immediately sent the crowd into a head-nodding paroxysm of appreciation.  The focal point of Spiders is vocalist Ann-Sofie Hoyles, who channels the music into her being and allows the power of the groove to bodily move her about the stage.  She dances, stomps, twists and gyrates, kneeling to feel the power of the beat and swinging into the microphone for a performance that’s surprisingly consistent, given all the kinetic energy being expended.  Hoyles’ presence is uniquely her own, but for the sake of argument is somewhere between Janis Joplin and Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes.  While Spiders performed a tight set behind her, Hoyles was the full story (despite the delightfully over-the-top feathered lapels of bassist Olle Griphammar,) capturing the audience’s attention and making fans out of many.

Graveyard.  As if they needed to prove it on this night, in the argument for best active rock band on Earth.  The four piece led by Joakim Nilsson comes out to the stage without assuming any particular air; they are there simply to perform for the gathered masses, which had filled in by this time, anxious with anticipation.  Many bands set the tone for their set by projecting an image, but Graveyard stands apart in that the band members allow the tone of the songs to set the attitude of the performance.  It seems like an elementary notion, and it’s difficult to explain in words, but Graveyard manages to almost take a back seat to their own songs.

While the energy of some of Graveyard’s pieces are a talking point, the real star of their set on this night were the slow, measured, heavily blues-laden pieces that so successfully dot their albums.  Beginning the set was “No Good, Mr. Holden,” a gem from “Hisingen Blues,” that swayed and undulated with deep, throwback groove.

It is rare in music to discover an album that sounds like an old friend from the first few listens.  It is rarer still to discover that that album takes on entirely new and virile dimensions when it is exhibited live.  Such is the case with Graveyard’s “Innocence and Decadence,” which is quickly coming up on six months old.  “From a Hole in the Wall,” featuring the smoother vocals of new(ish) bassist Truls Mörck exploded forth from the stage, rousing the gathered throng and giving perhaps just a small window of what it might have been like to see Cream perform in their heyday.  The psychedelic influence on “I&D,” though subtle, helped differentiate and diversify the set, as the paced swing of “Cause and Defect” shifted into the leaping drive of “The Suits, The Law and the Uniforms,” keeping the set moving and the crowd interested.

The standouts of Graveyard’s performance, almost unilaterally, were the love songs, or perhaps more appropriately, the songs concerning love and relationships.  “Too Much is Not Enough,” a song that sounds slightly overdone on the album, comes alive in this setting, the other band members taking the place of the recorded chorus and the tones of Jonatan Larocca-Ramm’s guitar finding depth in reverb.  By the time the set wound down to a thunderous “Uncomfortably Numb,” sweat dripped freely from Nilsson as he crooned the verses of a song that has always sounded like an inverted “Free Bird.”

Yet for all that, the set’s most emotional moment came in the encore, as Nilsson emerged alone and lit only on one side by a single stage light, strummed and sang through “Stay For a Song,” the powerful ballad which had the crowd mouthing the lyrics and the fashionable ladies of Brooklyn swaying in appreciation.  The performance was perfectly dotted by the subtle ovation the rest of the Graveyard received from the crowd as they took their places to continue the evening.  Ultimately, the band said goodnight following the bigger-than-life organized blues chaos of “The Siren,” and the crowd was left smiling, knowing they had just seen professionals put on. a. show.

Graveyard stands poised to take on the world.  And they just might win.

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