rock goddess recap #3: concrete blonde at irving plaza

February 4, 2013

ROCK GODDESS RECAP #3: CONCRETE BLONDE at IRVING PLAZA with Rock Goddess and metal maven, Militia. Check out her rocking experience to see Concrete Blonde

By: Militia, AFROPUNK Contributor

December 13, 2012. I know, I know… this show was a while ago.  But does it really matter??  This blog is an opinion, a time capsule of a happening- read it now or ten years from now, whatever your fancy.  Most likely, my thoughts will still be the same. 

The reason I decided to write about this particular concert is because after talking about it between then and now, turns out a lot more people dig Concrete Blonde than I realized.  I would say “Hey, I saw Concrete Blonde at Irving Plaza recently…” and someone else would say “They played in New York??? FUUUCCCKKK! Why didn’t you tell me, I woulda gone with you?!?”  Really???  Wow.  Ok.

I almost didn’t go and then I changed my mind when passing by Irving that night and I heard lead singer/bassist Johnette Napolitano’s gorgeous alto voice rumbling through the walls.  I got hyped, flew upstairs and was met by an odd crowd- a strange chop suey of gays, lesbians, straight couples on “date night” and the occasional goths peppered throughout for flavor.  I appreciated this seemly random diversity but it actually makes sense.  What other band can pull this kind of crowd?  None, because no one else sounds like Concrete Blonde.  They have a magic and melancholy and beauty and seduction in their songs.  And that’s what these people came for.  That’s what I came for.

The 3-piece CB band played a career spanning set- a rundown of deep cuts, hits, newbies and covers.  They were uber casual in sweaters, tee shirts and jeans, Johnette with her trusty bottle of wine by her side for extra motivation.  It all played out in front of a video backdrop that looped night skies in a Southwestern scene, equipped with a full desert moon and shooting stars.  (Teleport me now!) 

Couples were embracing and rocking each other with clasped hands.  Johnette was sipping her wine and commenting between songs, addressing the audience as friends (until people were snapping tons of pictures of her, then she actually got kinda pissed off.)  Her and guitarist James Mankey traded instruments throughout the set- bands that do this smoothly during live shows always impress me.  CB managed to make Irving Plaza have a small club feel.  And it was very cool.

My only complaints (c’mon, you know I’m fucking critical) were-

1. Some evil wench with a VIP badge scolded me like a school teacher for trying to take a picture of the band on my phone. Umm… it’s 2013. Everyone has a camera on their phone.  Good luck on your mission, beeyatch.

2. I missed “Joey”!! CB’s biggest hit, they played 4th in their set- FOURTH!!?!?!?! Dammit. Oh well, that’s what I get for being wishy washy about going to the show.

3. They did a VERY bizarre rendition of one of my faves “Caroline” that sounded clunky and grooved like dogshit. (Dogshit doesn’t groove.)

4. They DID NOT play “Tomorrow, Wendy” -ARRRRGHHH!!!  I wish I could have made their set list for them. lol

Awesome things to note: 

1. NO ONE plays guitar like James Mankey.  He’s got a perfectly unique sound that somehow combines crunch and echo- his riffs reverberated like telegraphy into that video desert sky.  This dude is seriously underrated in the guitar world.

2. Johnette sounded great, occasionally crapping out on a few high notes but she went for ’em- that’s what I love about her- although she’s very seasoned, she always sounds raw and real.  A rich, unconventional female voice that remains unparalleled today and is astounding to hear live.

3. Finally when they played “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” every goth in the room seized their moment, complete with sing-a-longs, swaying and swishy arm movements… and I was right there with them, in my black trenchcoat with a big black lipstick smile.

If you don’t know Concrete Blonde, “Bloodletting” is your starter album.  It’s moody, pretty and apparently very romantic.  Download it for Valentine’s Day.

Concrete Blonde Setlist:

Beds are Burning [Midnight Oil]
I Know the Ghost
God is a Bullet
Damage I’ve Done [The Heads]
Take Me Home
Help Me
Mexican Moon
Ghost Riders in the Sky [Stan Jones]
Everybody Knows [Leonard Cohen]
Happy Birthday
As Tears Go By [The Rolling Stones]
Ghost of a Texas Lady’s Man
Heal It Up
Scene of a Perfect Crime
Run Run Run
100 Games of Solitaire
Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)

The Real Thing