First the good news, and there is plenty. California indie rockers The Neighbourhood have released a rather solid debut record (released 4.23), I Love You. From it, we have been fortunate enough to learn/devour/enjoy some exciting new songs; namely the comely and sedutive "Sweater Weather" and pulsating/spooky "Female Robbery". The band, Jesse Rutherford (vocals), Jeremy Freedman and Zach Abels (guitar), Mikey Margot (bass), and Bryan Sammis (drums) have youth on their side. As I struggle to get out of bed these days it is easy to lavish praise on kids. And these guys are kids! For that reason it is easy to give them a pass when it comes to identity, stage presence and overall live presentation.
With that in mind their sold out performance at Bowery Ballroom 4.29.13 must be graded as an incomplete. Some more positives if you will allow. For a Monday evening show the place was jammed and most of the crowd was energetic, engaged and polite those in attendance old enough to be their parents. It must be noted that my ever growing sample size indicates concert crowds under the age of 30 are far more behaved than thirty somethings and beyond. Also, although it can adversely effect your morning routine for days to follow, seeing a concert early in the week can be rewarding in a few ways. That is, if you head to a concert on Monday you are making a firm commitment. So are the rest of those in attendance. These folks really want to see the band on stage. Worst case they are eager to see a live act and jump on the bandwagon. My posse qualified for the latter.
Go to Terminal 5, or even my beloved Webster Hall, on a Thursday or Friday and the crowd is vastly different. Some are out for a good time. Some are out to get drunk. Some are there for the band. The chatter intensifies among the concert goers as the night moves on. Not to mention those evenings might find the band hitting the stage after (gasp!) 11pm. That kind of night screws up your morning routine for weeks!
Anyway, the kids on stage and the kids in the crowd were clearly having fun. For my money, the hour long set was entertaining, but not captivating. Rutherford seems to be trying 1) to establish himself as a large than life lead singer in every sense of the phrase while 2) still trying to figure out who exactly he is?
Is he a tough, leather jacket-wearing rap/singer jumping on stacks and leading the crowd in a sing along?
Or maybe the soft spoken, misunderstood romantic you might see in an Abercrombie ad or Twilight film?
He works real hard, maybe too hard. His voice is strong and his hit singles were all played to perfection. Many times a new band will try desperately to "re-work" their notable songs in an effort to show their versatility. When you roll into a town the first couple times you are better server playing them as we all know, and love them. The Neighbourhood did exactly that and both "Female Robbery" and "Sweater Weather" were high points.
It was during the quieter times that Rutherford and his mates became more worrisome. Some songs were similar sounding. It was not bad, just similar.
More troubling was Rutherford's styling as opposed to the rest of his crew. Sure they all wore the same crew cuts, but that is where the similarity ended. Rutherford was in all white, covered in ink, with sharpie written messages sprawled on his ripped white jeans. His bandmates wore things like Anaheim Mighty Ducks t's, wife beaters, blazers and scoop necks. All. Over. The Map.
While that might not seem like much, trust me, it is. Because during those "off" moments when the song performed does not captivate your eyes start roaming. They notice a disconnect. They start wondering about cohesion. Then you start listening to the song again and think "maybe this isn't sounding quite right cause they are not ALL feeling it." "Perhaps the lead singer is wielding too much influence and turning the others off?"
Listen, if your mind starts playing tricks like that then something is amiss.
But, as mentioned earlier, these guys are young. They roll through NYC in June for stops at Bowery again and Music Hall of Williamsburg (tix here). Maybe this added time on the road will seem them mesh even stronger. Maturity is a wonderful necessity. Marrying maturity with the inherent adolescence rock and roll demands is a tall task.
Time will tell if The Neigbourhood remains up to it.
|The Neighborhood, 4.29.13|
|The Question Mark: Is Jesse Rutherford on an island?|
|Or a man committed to the "band" The Neighbourhood?|