Live: Friendly Fires Gyrate Enthusiastically At Bowery Ballroom
Better Than: Sitting around depressed that you didn't get to see Robyn at Radio City.
"Oh! I want to feel true love!" moans Ed Macfarlane, perched precariously at the foot of the Bowery Ballroom stage, gyrating with alarming aplomb, his hips swiveling impressively while, at his feet, the front row's ladies and gentlemen alike try to decide whether they find this spectacle more amusing or arousing. A little of both, in all likelihood.
Friendly Fires are a bunch of sweaty British gentlemen in button-down shirts playing dance-rock that actually makes people dance, heavy on high-hat grandeur, gloriously overblown choruses, tender falsetto, pealing horns, the occasional maraca/cowbell assault, and lyrics like "I close my eyes on the dance floor/I forget about you." Their 2008 self-titled debut is a model of a lack of restraint, brazen in its white-guys-who-love-dance-music abandon with just a touch of jagged-guitar Gang of Four dissonance, the whole operation (especially live, and then especially when Ed gets his pelvis heavily involved) reminding you of !!!, but they're somehow way less snide about it. Their best song, "Paris," begins, "One day we're gonna live in Paris/I promise/I'm on it," and you find yourself wishing bands promised you things more often.
They've got a new album on the way, named Pala, after an island in an Aldous Huxley book, which is of course a really bad sign, and yet their new songs are as unhinged as ever, Ed really leaning into that dainty falsetto, with lots of cliff-jump false-ending leaps into ever more histrionic choruses; "Hurting" sounds like a chunky, lascivious, extremely macho rewrite of "Jive Talkin'." But your killer tonight is the debut's "On Board," laden with maraca, cowbell, an extra drummer, and a sweet air of soft-core porno-disco shamelessness. No chance of getting true love out of this. But you'll feel something anyway.
Brooklyn's own the Hundred in the Hands are your openers, working a very similar new-new-wave vein, a two-person coed operation with lots of gargantuan prerecorded boom-kick cacophony, as though Sleigh Bells were emulating not the cheerleaders but the sullen, Cure-obsessed Goth kids lurking underneath the bleachers. "Young Aren't Young" is an obvious jam, but in terms of visible enthusiasm there's not a lot to go on other than singer Eleanore Everdell's occasional bout of rhythmic cathartic knee-bending. Which makes it pretty hard to compete with this guy.
Critical Bias: I'm up for any show where the crowd's so amped that right before the encore people actually chant "ENCORE! ENCORE! ENCORE!"
Overheard: "Wow," says the gentleman in the front row, eying the guitarist's double-decker bank of pedals.
Random Notebook Dump: Someone I know is obsessed with this Aeroplane remix of "Paris."
Friendly Fires Set List
Jump In The Pool
Pull Me Back to Earth
Show Me Lights
Kiss of Life