I don't know what show all these cranky reviewers were at, man, because it def wasn't the one I was at last night. I mean, really. I went in to this show with insanely high expectations, and it pretty much met every one.
I have no pictures for you, my kittens, because they made me relinquish my camera to the coat check girl after the kind and gentle and patient and sensitive [not so much--Ed.] doorpeople saw my humble point 'n' shoot in my messenger bag, but, honestly, I'm kind of glad I didn't have it in my hands as a distraction. I could focus all my attention on the stage, and the show I found there was white hot.
Amy was backed by eight-piece band The Dap Kings (two saxes and a trumpet, two guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards) and accompanied by two gorgeous (male) back-up singers. The dudes all wore three-piece suits, the horn section had some subtle but perfectly effective choreography, and the drummer was doing rim-shots when Amy started throwing candy out into the audience. The whole thing would have seemed straight out of central casting if it wasn't, well, right on the money. I felt like it totally transcended its own Motown revivalism by going straight for the heart of the sound, without mucking it up with too much with self-consciousness or self-satisfaction. Not to mention that these guys were all consummate professionals, just jamming away like they were born with their instruments in their hands.
The folks who are whinging about Amy's stage presence clearly wanted some sort of polished professional, and, the way I understand it, that's just not her steez. Even though she didn't throw a tantrum or snort some coke off the mic stand like I was kind of secretly hoping she would, she was a little bit snotty and a little bit spacy--in short, everything I wanted her to be. I read her body language less as insecurity and more as a casual don'tgiveafuck that didn't have to actively demand our attention. It seemed like she just instinctively knew that she deserved it. Not to give her a free pass on the anorexia front or anything, but, she looked fantastic in her jeans and midriff-bearing shirt, white hoop earrings, and huge mound of jet-black hair extensions. (The top of her head seriously looked like some sort of evil cupcake gone to seed.) They played most of Back to Black and, I'm assuming, a few more off Frank (I only knew "Fuck Me Pumps"), and even snuck in a little bit of Lauren Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)."
Of course, there were big, big cheers for "Rehab" and "You Know I'm No Good," but the audience was basically losing their crackers before a note was even played. It was amazing. Most rock shows I go to, there's a sense that the audience is cheering for the frontman/woman because they view him/her basically as a more fully realized version of themselves; it's like, I think a lot of kids idolize Colin Meloy or John Darnielle because they fancy "yeah, those are the kinds of songs I would write if I could write songs; they're speaking directly to my experience as a certain kind of consumer of a certain kind of music." But Amy's appeal is so much more nebulous and intangible. (Which is maybe why the cookie-cutter reviews aren't quite able parse it in the familiar vocabulary of the average rock show?) I mean, she's got the sexiness, the voice, the attitude, the Britishness, the notorious reputation, the songwriting skills, but, really, none of those things, even working as a unit, are big enough to contain her. You can't really pin down the thing that inspired such an explosion of love in the room. I dunno. I'm bummed that the haters are hating today, 'cause I had a blast.
The jury's still out for me on opener Patrick Wolf. I'm not overly in love with his songs, but the specific kind of glammy, hammy lllllllllllllllookatme! musk he was giving off on stage reminded me of this time, I think it was last summer, when I saw three friends, two girls and a boy, get on the brown line at Armitage. They were clearly coming home from summer school or summer camp or somesuch, and they each had a plastic spoon and were sharing a white styrofoam cup of strawberry ice cream. The boy, all loose, rangy Jacob's ladder limbs and joints, at one point, a propos of nothing as far as I could tell, leaned all the way over so that he was about an inch away from sticking his nose in one of the girl's ears, the girl he clearly fancied best of the two. There was this obscene, hormonal, yet completely innocent intimacy in the whole exchange. That kind of sexy, sweet, gummy bear gesture of affection (both Merriam-Webster's definitions 2 "fondness" and 7 "the state of being affected" intended/appropriate here) more than made up for what I just wasn't getting out of the music itself.