It’s pitch black. The curtain fully conceals the stage. The noise of buzzing vehicles pans throughout the venue. A deep, brooding brass instrument creeps its way past the sounds and fills the mix. The audience remains still and their awareness heightened by the looming aural tension.
The curtain rises as if to finally exhale a held breath. Bright beams of white and blue lights flash in quick succession, subliminally revealing band members approaching their instruments. Electronics, drums, and voices emit from the stage. The lights shine brighter but the performers are all silhouettes. The audience remains stunned and mesmerized, like witnesses to the event of seeing extra-terrestrial life for the first time.
Photos by Melissa Karlin
And thus begins These New Puritans’ performance of “Spiral.” It’s all incredibly cinematic, playing out like the screenplay to a truly engaging thriller. Oh, it’s definitely a thriller because it keeps the same integral qualities of the album from which the track stems — last year’s brilliantly avant-garde Field of Reeds — building on a cryptic arrangement before giving way to simpler but equally mystifying elements. More is revealed and much is relieved as the song enters its piano-driven second half, but the hair covering my skin has already risen to its highest peak and will remain there for the entirety of the show.
“Spiral” was only the first track they’d play over the course of 75-minute at The Roxy for an incredibly-limited run in the US entitled the Spitting Stars Tour. The seven members of These New Puritans would go on to play numerous tracks from Field of Reeds, including “Fragment Two,” “The Light In Your Name,” “Organ Eternal,” the title track, and “V (Island Song),” all of which were met with praise by the small but devoted crowd. The band would also perform tracks from their previous LP, Hidden, including the bass-drum heavy “We Want War,” beat-centric “Three Thousand,” and “White Chords,” showing off a little more of their older dance-punk side.
Few performers could fully realize These New Puritans’ already dynamic and transportive musical creations and accurately portray the sentiment for a live audience, but the group brought a new level of perfection to Monday night’s performance. Jack Barnett was an effective lead, commanding the stage with his bass as both a vocalist and a composer, meticulously checking his stance and those around him to be sure the sounds he was hearing were both to his satisfaction and the audience’s. Main members Thomas Hein and brother George Barnett both exhibited their talents as multi-instrumentalists, and jazz singer Elisa Rodrigues joined in on a number of tracks to provide a tight juxtaposition to Jack’s baritone.
Seeing as how Field of Reeds was easily one of 2013’s most shining and underrated musical achievements, I knew I had to attend this very-limited concert the moment it was announced. While I thought the stunning recent album release might have lead to a sold-out affair, I was surprised to find maybe a hundred or so people fill the venue that night. It was more of a grace than a sin, though, as it revealed just the kind of presence the band has here in US – one that is still burgeoning and that needs more word-of-mouth spreading. If this review is the first time you’ve heard of These New Puritans, then I feel I’ve done my duty as a blogger for this site.
For as few live performances I’ve seen so far this year (in comparison to last year), each one I’ve witnessed in 2014 has proven to be nothing short of spectacular, These New Puritans included. The next time they’re back in the States, don’t pass up your rare chance to see them live.
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