photos by Tim Griffin, words by Andrew Frisicano
The start was delayed and, when they finally started playing, equipment problems caused long interruptions and ruined the set. The unsympathetic crowd heckled and booed.To be fair, that was just one of the band's three official SXSW shows - and they had no such problems at their planned-to-a-T W Hotel gig in New York on Tuesday (3/17), which served to show off material from the group's new record Living Thing (out March 31st on Almost Gold Recordings/StarTime International).
"It was an awful show," said Peter Moren, the band's lead singer, able to smile painfully about it in an interview Friday. "But it's also good that stuff like that happens occasionally. Otherwise you become bigheaded.
The night started out with free pink martinis and wine, as media and industry folk (many running around with cameras) hobnobbed with VIPs and guests at the formal event, part of the W NY Hotel's Wanderlust luxury music event series. The crowd settled into place just in time for the angelic, mid-paced opening song "Just the Past," which announced the atmosphere-heavy mood of the band's new album.
Probably my favorite tune of the night came with "It Don't Move Me," a Faint-esque electro mash-up with claves, snapping synth drums, and locomotive bass. Its lyrics seemed to highlight the band's departure from melody-driven "Young Folks"-style songs with lines like "History is done...I can run much faster when nothing weighs me down." In that uptempo vein, the band suceeded - the propulsive dance chorus of "Lay It Down," for example ("Hey, shut the fuck up, boy," it goes) worked even in the cold, cavernous room.
The creepy children's-voice sample of single "Nothing to Worry About," however, didn't do anything to breach the gap created by the echo-heavy vocals and already distant atmosphere of the event (though the massive, resounding PA sounded great soaking into the sound-proofed walls).
But the band works best on crowd-centered energy, built upon songs like "Young Folks," the night's of-course encore. The guys jumped through the hit accompanied by Heather D'Angelo from Au Revoir Simone and someone named Chris, who furiously pounded out the song's usually subdued bongo part.
It was the energy of that track that broke through the mingling suits and clanking martini glasses, reaffirming the power of the single - a reaction I'm sure the band hopes to recreate with new-album songs at its many scheduled dates this summer.
Coming up, Peter Bjorn and John return to Europe, then set out on a US tour with Chairlift, visiting NYC for two basically-sold-out NYC shows at the end of April (MHOW and Webster Hall).
More pics from the W New York hotel show, below...