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The Raveonettes - Aug. 29, 2004

The Cabaret Metro, now known simply as Metro, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. I've been going to see shows there almost since the beginning. Until I went to see the Raveonettes, however, I never enetered the place through the back door.

The unorthodox entry was due to the fact that the evening was part of the "Camel Speakeasy Tour," a fact one would not glean from the ticket or any of the advertising I had seen for the show. Apparently, in addition to tickets, patrons could get free admission by bringing a pack of Camels, which smacked a little bit of prison life.

In keeping with the speakeasy theme, the audience was first shunted down into the Smart Bar below the main staging area of Metro, which was dressed as a speakeasy, with live jazz, people dressed in zoot suits and flapper dresses (and presumably paid to do so), and red crushed velvet drapes. David Lynch filming a little person would not have seemed out of place. The crowd was eventually led upstairs by a man in a gold lame jacket who vaguely resembled a young Nick Nolte on a bad night.

The opener was a local band named The Baldwin Brothers, who demonstrated that (like the Supreme Beings of Leisure), no one has yet figured out how to meld lounge music with electronica in a way that is entertaining.

After the Baldwins left the stage, the gold lame man had the crowd clear most of the main floor space for performances. A vaguely Gwen Stefani-looking blonde kept a ball rolling on her spinning parasol; she was also able to keep herself atop a larger ball while spinning it in place with her feet. A woman in a skintight latex catsut performed a number of tricks with an ever-increasing number of hula hoops. Men performed gymnastic steps that I think were supposed to recall 1940s swing moves, but more closely resembled Russian folk dancing. Finally, a trio of women performed a mild burlesque routine; so mild, in fact, that the gyrations of the hula hoop woman were more loudly cheered by the predominantly male audience.

The Ravonettes took the stage almost immediately thereafter, kicking off their set with an energetic, noisy rendition of "Remember," from their most recent disc, Chain Gang of Love. Indeed, the primary difference between the Raveonettes on disc and the Raveonettes live is that their rockabilly-spiced take on the Jesus & Mary Chain formula roars louder and is even more feedback-laden in person. At times, this worked to the band's advantage, magnifying the Spectorian sturm and drang of "Little Animal" and rendering their single, "That Great Love Sound" even more of a pop anthem. At other times, the beauty of the melody was lost, as with "Chain Gang of Love," where the digitally-prerecorded work chant vocals were quickly drowned in the distortion of a twin guitar attack. [And it's been my long-stated position that a good work song is always improved by a work chant, e.g., Roy Orbison's "Working for the Man," Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang," and the Vogues' "Five 'o' Clock World," to name but a few.] Given this approach, it was not surprising that the few songs the band skipped from their small catalog tended to be quieter numbers like "Dirty Eyes." The band supplemented the material from their two discs with a grungy take on Eddie Cochran's "C'Mon Everybody," a number that fits so nicely with their aesthetic that its inclusion was pleasantly surprising, but not shocking.

Similarly, the brevity of the band's set was not surprising, given that the Raveonettes have but two discs to their credit. Indeed, the early J&MC often used to do brief sets. Unlike the early days of the Jesus & Mary Chain, the departure of the Raveonettes did not incite a riot. But the largely Generation Y crowd seemed too apathetic to stage one, even if the band had departed after 20 minutes in J&MC style. Of course, the Raveonettes are musically less aggressive than the J&MC. In fact, the drumming was sufficiently undemanding that the drummer was smoking while playing (though no one mentioned whether it was a Camel). But pop music, particularly pop music descending from punk, can be more about energy and attitude than musicianship. And the Raveonettes delivered just enough of the latter to make the former joyous and enjoyable.

[P.S.: Someone tell lead Raver Sune Rose Wagner that trucker hats were ugly even when they were back in style, please.]

Added:  Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Reviewer:  Karl
hits: 5680
Language: eng


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