Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And the band played new material from chemical chords: Stereolab live at The Fillmore

I have a real soft spot for Stereolab a band who, at the height of their powers, could hypnotize with their steady, mid-tempo drone (or later, their funky 60's pop inspired tunes) and catchy, tasteful French and English harmonies sung by lead singer/ co-band leader Laetita Sadier alongside keyboardist/vocalist Mary Hansen. Tragically, Hansen was killed by a truck while riding her bike six years ago, and the band has since undergone various personnel changes over the years. It would be interesting to see how the band's performance would rate since the first time I saw them ten years ago.

Armed with the usual combination of guitar, bass, drums, vibes, fender rhodes, moogs, vox organ and hohner clavinet, Stereolab hit the ground running with 'Percolator,' a tune from 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup LP. Really fast, rushed actually, and not a great way to begin the show. Afterwards, following a bit of confusion in between songs, Laetitia jokingly commented, 'after 18 years, we're still pros.' Smoothed over for the time-being, but pauses in between songs would be an on-going issue which negatively impacted the show. Some more new material followed, which at its best sounded like re-hashed material from the Neu! inspired Transient Random Noise Bursts era 'lab, and at its not so best sounded very repetitive in a way that, even for Stereolab, just didn't work. Mid-way through the set, the band launched into 'Ping-pong,' a familiar single which appeared to show the crowd (and band) at their most energetic and emotive. There were a few other highlights, but they tended to involve older material, such as 'French Disko' and 'Cybile's Reverie.' One notable exception would be their last encore, which captured the steady kraut rock feel of their earlier work, threw in some more loud soft dynamics, and seemed to work surprisingly well as an extended, experimental, improvisational piece. Maybe Stereolab does have some new sounds to explore after all.


Anonymous said...

Was that the first night? The second night, when I went, was pretty great...sounds like they found their footing. I agree: not the band of a few years ago (you could tell there was lingering sadness over Hansen's death), but still a really good show.

Have a great time back east.

- wolfgang

Joe Manekin said...

That was indeed the first night. Glad that you had a good time at the show, and that's a good point about still coping with their loss. Thanks for the comment, we should catch up when I'm back in SF.