Blonde Redhead makes music that is best listened to via a pair of good headphones. Their intricate, complex songs take listeners on a sonic journey that can be difficult to replicate live, but the trio exceeded expectations during their show at The Fonda Theatre Wednesday night. They managed to not just replicate that listening experience, but to add to it, and I left the venue with a new appreciation for their work.

I went into the show at The Fonda a little wary because I was not a huge fan of Blonde Redhead’s latest album, Barragán. The self-contained sound that permeated the album can lead to lackluster live performances, and I didn’t want to spend the concert feeling the same frustration that I did with the record. Luckily, my fears were unwarranted.

The group did play at least half of Barragán, but as I watched the trio construct their sound, I realized how complex some of the tracks were. It became clear that the buildups, which I considered unnecessary on the album, were what made a lot of their songs really great. Seeing them construct those tracks layer by layer created an experience. I found myself increasingly entranced as different elements were incorporated, and by the time the songs opened up, I was fully immersed in them. I felt like I was living in a world that Blonde Redhead had created.


In fact, I was so taken by their performance that I didn’t notice until halfway through the show that the band hadn’t really acknowledged the audience. Kazu Makino broke the spell by laughingly informing us that her bandmate (and husband), Amedeo Pace, is always changing the set list.

Their interactions on stage, by the way, were awkwardly charming. Makino would lurch towards Pace in a strange, gangly dance before shying away. She danced awkwardly in general, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The uninhibited excitement of her movements only added to the band’s appeal.


Makino added vocals to “Doll is Mine,” a song that only features Pace’s vocals on the album version, further showcasing the interplay of their relationship and their willingness to experiment. They also delivered a different version of “Not Getting There,” playing with the loops and beats of the track.

As I mentioned above, I gained a new appreciation for Barragán by listening to some of its tracks live. “Mind To Be Had,” for example, dragged at almost nine minutes on the album. However, watching the buildup and hearing that explosion of sound when the song breaks was amazing live. It completely encompassed the building, and I felt none of the album version’s drag.

“Dripping,” another standout and their set closer, also came through with a strength that just didn’t translate on the album. The live rendition of “The One I Love,” which was probably my favorite track on the record, incorporated a previously absent power and lushness while retaining the delicate intonation of its recorded version.


I have to admit, though, I was still most excited when Blonde Redhead played tracks from 23. The first chord of the magnificent “Spring And By Summer Fall” sent shivers up my spine, and I found myself completely engrossed, and when they closed their encore with “23,” I got unreasonably excited. The song permeated everything, and I even committed the cardinal concert sin of recording part of their performance.

At the end of the show, Makino stayed behind a bit, jumping around happily on stage and shaking hands with the crowd. It wasn’t exactly expected, but somehow it made perfect sense that she would do that. This is, of course, where I draw a parallel between that interaction and my experience.

I didn’t exactly expect to be blown away by their show, but yeah, it makes perfect sense that I was. The wall of sound that I really love and appreciate on their albums is perfected on stage, and why wouldn’t it be? Makino and the Pace twins have been at it for almost 20 years. They know what they’re doing, and they do it well.

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