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GANG OF FOUR w/ Morning Wood and Men, Women, and Children



  Earthlink Live  

Midtown, Atlanta , GA

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I would like to officially propose "PostLibyan's Theory of Opposite Opener Quality". Basically, it goes like this: the bigger a band is, the worse are the bands that get assigned to open for them by The Label. Have you ever noticed that? It's like you go see a band that is pretty big, playing in a good-sized venue, and the opening act just sucks eggs so badly. (Son Volt, in particular, are legendary for having really awful acts open for them.) Please note that this Theory does not apply to "arena rock", which i contend is a different level of music altogether.

I offer as evidence for my Theory this latest outing into the realm of Pretty Big Bands. I mean, who hasn't heard of Gang of 4, right? They are an important, older, post-punk act. But the two bands who opened for them.... ugh.

I wandered in at 9 PM, and the first band was already on the stage. They were called Men, Women, and Children, and i could hear them reeking from the lobby as i filtered in past the layers of security. Basically they were an all male electroclash-style band (think !!!) trying to rock loud and hard and fast, with a dance beat. Except that they hadn't quite figured out how to play in a big space, so they sounded like mud. The rhythms were lost under a flurry of keyboards, and i'm not totally sure that the guitarist was even plugged in. And the vocalist, if you can even call what this guy was doing vocals. Ugh. Let's just say i looked at them for about 3 minutes, then headed back out into the lobby to look for other people i knew.

Mercifully, Men, Women, and Children were almost done when i arrived, and 2 songs later, they were gone. So i sat during the intermission and chatted with a few friends, and we headed back in for the next act.

Morning Wood are, visually, an interesting act. On the far right of the stage was the bassist, a normal looking polo shirted swarthy fellow. The drummer looked like, well, a drummer in a rock band. The vocalist was a spastic brunette chick with frizzy hair. And cleavage, can't forget the cleavage seeing as it so important to the band that they named their first release It's Tits!.

And then, on the left side of the stage stood ... Tommy Shaw, circa 1979, during one of the periods where he had shaved off that little mustache he used to wear. No kidding -- the guitarist was a dead ringer for Mr. Shaw, with the straight, stringy blond hair, a black leather jacket (but not one of those motorcycle ones), and deep blue jeans. Now, as a disclaimer i have to admit that i own most of the Styx catalog, and i think that Mr. Shaw was a fine guitarist in his day. (The verdict is still out on the most recent album...) Anyway, aside from looking like Mr. Shaw, this guy was actually a really good guitarist. He was mixed under the drums, but it was very apparent that he knew what he was doing, and he did it with a minimum of flash. I actually enjoyed watching him play.

Musically, the band features a really great rhythm section, driving the songs along overtop of the whirling guitar. And then there is the vocalist. She was what, in High School, we would have termed "a spaz". She was running all over the place, bouncing around like mad, calling out to people in the crowd who she didn't think were paying enough attention, and generally working up a sweat. She actually has a really good voice too -- kind of throaty and rich, with a decent range. However, well, she did have a tendency of pointing to someone in the crowd and yelling at them in a confrontational way for not being into her band enough, and i found that really uncomfortable. Mrs. K-Tron and myself tried to squeeze into a shadow behind some stocky guy, hoping that she wouldn't yell at us if she couldn't see us!

Overall, not a bad band, really, and their radio hit Nth Degree came across really well in concert. However, the antics of the vocalist really ruined it for me. I don't like standing at a show exerting energy hoping NOT to get accosted by a band member. Truly obnoxious. Maybe the rest of the band should switch her to decaf...

After that was over we had a huge intermission waiting for Gang of Four. I guess they were hoping that the club would fill up, but it never did. I think we were there for almost an hour, just standing and waiting, listening to reggae played so loud on the house sound system that it distorted painfully.... Another annoyance.

But then, to a gust from the fog machine, Gang of Four took the stage and tore into a blistering version of At Home He's A Tourist. From there they proceeded to pretty much play the songs off of their latest album, Return The Gift, except they didn't play I Love A Man In Uniform, substituting I Found That Essence Rare instead, and that's just fine by me. I have no complaints with their set, which including a wonderful, loud and distorted version of Anthrax, Jon King beating a microwave oven to death with a baseball bat during He'd Send In The Army, and ended with a blistering version of Damaged Goods. Gang of Four have a lot of really great tunes, and they hit a significant portion of them tonight, performing them with energy and precision. It made for a great show.

The Death of a Microwave:



It was great getting to see the four of them work, as all four original members are masterful musicians. I personally spent much of the show watching bassist Dave Allen's fingers fly around his fretboard as i soaked up the deep powerful grooves he was playing. The man is amazingly talented, and he makes it seem so effortless. I should also point out that drummer Hugo Burnham had his own cheering section of guys chanting "Hugo! Hugo! Hugo!" after most tunes. Craziness. In addition to the great rhythm section, vocalist Jon King danced around like a maniac, destroying mic stands as he went. (Well, i guess that he really only had to have one replaced, and i don't know if he broke it or if it just never cooperated with him correctly in the first place....) And then there was Andy Gill, the guitarist. Most of the bands in Atlanta that i like these days owe him a debt of gratitude for his playing style, and yet, where were they all? Anyway, it was a pleasure to watch Mr. Gill perform, even though he often did seem melodramatically serious in his facial expressions.

Seeing Gang of Four was incredible, and i would highly recommend them to everyone and anyone. Morning Wood actually have a few good tunes, but stay out of the way of that annoying vocalist. The first band, well, let's just hope we never hear from them again. Overall, this combines to make this show a mixed bag. It ended well, but it took an awful lot of inconvenience to get going.....

Maybe my theory needs to be something about "The bigger the band, the more inconvenience you will have to go through to see them." Hmmm. Well, it obviously still needs some work. Back to the drawing board i guess.....

Related Links:
  Indoor Minor saw Gang of 4 perform earlier in the year in Manchester, UK.

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