The stage at Shepherd’s Bush Empire tonight resembles a cross between a medieval dungeon and a photo shoot for Vogue. Regardless of what this is supposed to represent, Blonde Redhead seem to have gotten everything from the stage props, to the sound, and live chemistry between band members, down to a fine art.
Walking on set with a mask covering her face, Kazu Makino instils a sense of theatre and mysticism, and that performance can be just as much about ignoring the crowd and losing yourself in the music to truly nail the feeling of live songs.
They open with the subdued ‘Black Guitar’, where Makino and guitarist, Simone Pace show how to put coolness back into a duet. The tone of the new record, Penny Sparkle is atmospheric, claustrophobic and dark, full of deep bass sounds, with the beautiful falsettos of Makino quavering intricately between each song. The intimate setting of the venue tonight for this kind of music is perfect, and for fans that may only catch Blonde Redhead at a festival; you sense if this music is played in an open air venue or in daylight, everything will be lost.
For a three piece outfit, the sound seems enormously spread out and layered, no doubt helped by a backing track or two, but it’s Makino’s vocals that really steal the show, moving around the stage like a graceful butterfly, she catches every note perfectly. Most of the set list comes from the new album, although a few rare classics
such as ’23’ and ‘Dr. Strangelove’ are soaked up by the crowd with enormous applause.
Although the latest record is far more subdued in its tone than previous albums, it definitely seems to work in the band’s favour for a live show. Songs like, ‘Love Or Prison’ and ‘My Plants are Dead’ with their gothic synthesizers and subtle vocals seem more manageable and easier to execute then say some of the louder and punchier songs they deliver.
They end on the off beat track, ‘Penny Sparkle’, and that’s it, they’re gone. They don’t do drama or drastic encores- the music simply speaks for itself: ecstatic, brilliant, seductive, and everything in between.
Photos: Daniel Dalton.