Blonde Redhead @ the El Rey 7/2/11

words + photos by Linda Rapka, as published by L.A. RECORD:

The word epic is thrown around a lot these days, but there’s really no other way to duly describe the live performance as delivered by Blonde Redhead. The reaction from the audience at the El Rey July 2 confirms this summation.

Starting things off were two openers: Bass Drum of Death, who lived up to their name, and Luyas, who turned out to be a surprisingly fantastic gift from Canada. The youthful northerners were all smiles and high fives, leaping around the stage like sugar-high kids in a bouncy house, having tapped right in to the crowd’s electric buzz of anticipation for the headlining New York trio.

At long last Blonde Redhead took to the stage. Wearing a white wisp of a dress matching her dainty demeanor, the arrestingly attractive Kazu Makino and equally stunning identical twin Italian brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace commanded immediate attention as they delved into the slow-burning “Black Guitar” off their latest effort, Penny Sparkle. Featuring vocal parts by both Amedeo and Kazu, the song took on a theatrical air backdropped by cool blue stage lights and dense fog-machine clouds as the two floated around each other during the vocal tradeoff.

While the set focused mainly on the last album, including the beat-driven “Here Sometimes” and atmospheric “Everything is Wrong,” sprinkled in were favorites from the band’s seven-album discography. In a shining highlight of the evening, Amedeo took tandem lead on mic and guitar, artfully weaving his signature nasal tones atop wavy guitar lines over the dance-inducing “Spring and by Summer Fall” from their phenomenal 2007 album, 23.

The group didn’t address the audience too much, and save for a striking arrangement of incandescent light bulbs set up at each mic, no bells and whistles adorned the performance. It’s all about the music with Blonde Redhead, something much appreciated by the sold-out house. Mid-set, one audience member waited for the perfect moment of silence to cry out, “You guys know you’re legends, right!” Usually fan gushing leaves me queasy, but in this case I found myself in enthusiastic in agreement. Über-fan’s outburst was met with a slow-creeping sheepish grin from Kazu before the group continued to impress the house, closing out the set with fire-paced rocker “23.” They returned to quell the still-ravenous audience with a three-song encore. Simone shined with his penetrating drumming on the decade-old tune “Melody of Certain Three,” followed by one of the band’s most pleasantly poppy tunes, “Silently” from 23. Finally, slowing things down just as they started, the band took their final bow of the evening with “Penny Sparkle.”

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