Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Live Review: Sparklehorse @ First-Ave

Live Review: Sparklehorse @ First-Ave (2/19)
Grade: B-

It's not every day that I see an opening band better than the headliner, but this was definitely the case at the Jesse Sykes/Sparklehorse show on February 19th.

Jesse Sykes and her band, the Sweet Hereafter were just great. It's easy for an alt-country girl to get lost in the explosion of female talent in the genre, but she really stood out. Most of that owes to the fact that she owes a lot more to the "country" than the "alt."

Often, her music featured twangy, vibrato-heavy, western sounds not unlike Nancy Sinatra. But she still pulled it off with the style and flair of Patti Smith. I was really impressed with the mixture of country, confessions and raw energy in her performance.

Sparklehorse was all right. They were three main flaws with their performance:

1.) Mark Linkous' voice: It just didn't sound that good tonight. He normally sounds great on record, but tonight he just sounded a little rough, tired and bored.

2.) Linkous' mediocre performance exacerbated a lot of annoying lyrical details I don't normally notice. Has he always sounded like some absurdist Japanese poet and I never noticed?

3.) The drummer for this tour kept pounding on his drums like Thor bringin' down the hammer. His drunken posturing was annoying and totally took me out of the moment.

But the performance wasn't a total bust. Much to their credit, the band was awesome musically. They were very together, especially on "Don't Take My Sunshine Away," and replicated the lushness of their studio albums admirably. On top of it, there was more energy and more motion on stage than I anticipated. I came not expecting much (we've all heard about Linkous' dottiness onstage and off), and I left happy.

(April Wright)


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