Blonde Redhead – [Live]

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Classic, mature, and seasoned are not the first words that come to mind when describing Blonde Redhead's new full length record, 23, a recording that bulges at the seams with fresh ideas and new directions. However, there were some people in the crowd on April 23, including this reporter, at Bimbo's 365 club in San Francisco who have literally grown up with the band since they came on the scene more than 13 years ago. Flash back to the mindset of an indie/post-punk obsessed collegiate late teen in 1994 and you will find a record collection full of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Unwound, Fugazi, Stereolab and Lush. Bands that on the surface don't have a whole lot in common, but all influences that Blonde Redhead have managed to absorb and rebroadcast through their original music. Perhaps it was just the mindset of the general scene at the time in 95 when quiet wasn't yet the new loud, but describing Blonde Redhead's performances in those days brings to mind the word "unhinged."

I recall a particular show in the now defunct Jabberjaw club in Los Angeles when singer Kazu was literally climbing the walls, drenched in sweat, and doing that screech-self-distortion thing she does with her vocal chords until it seemed her frail body was going to snap in two.

Now flash forward to present day at the plush and stylish Bimbo's, a venue that is a polar opposite to the hard edges of the DIY Jabberjaw. Our teenage music lover from the mid-90s still holds on dearly to a first edition vinyl copy of Sister and has a cassette tape of In on the Killtaker buried somewhere under the car seat. However, in the days since the Jabberjaw closed its doors, he/she has grown up. Tastes have been refined, careers have begun and children have been born.

Blonde Redhead’s engaging display of meticulous restraint during their performance made it clear that they have matured over the years as well. In the 13-plus years of playing the most vital philosophy that the band has put into practice is a simple one: "less is more." Kazu's vocal-screech technique was employed exactly twice during the course of the show, while drummer Simone kept the efficient beats always locked in, never straying with a superfluous fill or ending a song with a loud cymbal crash. By holding back, and letting go at exactly the right moments, Blonde Redhead was more expressive and explosive than ever before. During the evening, guitarist/singer Amedeo spoke only two words to the crowd: "Thanks much." The band simply lets the music speak for itself and that is why we are all still listening.

23 is out now on 4AD

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