From the beginning of its set, Crime and the City Solution created an intimate, sensory immersive environment with a flood of atmospheric sounds built from what seemed like Persian music. The instruments interacted with each other as though emulating waves on the open sea. Appropriately enough, the opening song was the deeply haunting "The Bride Ship." On the back wall, Danielle de Picciotto's superbly realized projections shifted between the image of a stylized skull against a Chagall-esque backdrop and one where a devil's head blended into and replaced the skull. Had this been another venue, the projections would have worked well enough, but against that large wall at the Oriental it was absolutely an integral part of the overall power of this show.
See also: - Simon Bonney of Crime and the City Solution on the band's two decade hiatus - David Eugene Edwards sounds off on his musical past, present and future - David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand on the influence of Middle Eastern music
The flow of music remained fluid with ebbs, flows, swells and rushes, waves and splashes. Guitarist Alexander Hacke was animated throughout, and during "Keepsake," he shouted out wordlessly at intervals, like a mystical hype man. Simon Bonney gestured about and swayed like he was conjuring deep memories with a vivid poetry as he sang with a riveting, controlled intensity.
"Steal to the Sea" had a great escalating momentum that drove it all around before it broke almost effortlessly in a dynamic shift that was subtle and powerful, like few bands ever really pull off or even try to pull off. The sprawling "The Last Dictator I" and "The Last Dictator II" had a nerve tingling section of low-to-high notes repeating from Hacke, with stuttering guitar splinters from David Eugene Edwards and spiky-scraping violin from Bronwyn Adams. It wasn't pure music so much as sonic theater, and it got under your skin.
When the familiar strains of "The Dolphins & The Sharks" came from the stage, after various members said aloud, "Dolphins!" the crowd applauded and a smoother, deeper version of the song came forth. The main set ended with "All Must Be Love." The downstrike and drag rhythm gave it an interesting pace and it was for this song that Edwards finally seemed to be possessed with the music -- a quality that has made performances of his own music so compelling.
After a short interval, the band came back on to perform "Six Bells Chime," and then closed with the title track of its forthcoming album, American Twilight. It was like a dark, industrial funk that ended with Bonney crying out "Armageddon" over and over. Tribal and even mystical in tone, it's easy to see why many performers have been entranced by Simon Bonney's Mark E. Smith-like mysteriousness on stage.
Opening the show was the Howling Hex from Denver. Eric Allen and Eric Van Leuven comprised the rhythm section on bass and drums, respectively. Both guys are fantastic musicians and what they played this whole show seemed deceptively simple because the two guys kept up the pretty much same solid beat all the way through fairly long songs. While not traditionally "hard," this trick takes major discipline because the temptation is to do something more "interesting" instead of sticking with the rhythm. But this is key to the Norteño element of the music, where the rhythm only has variations over long stretches of time or at long intervals to create a rhythm within a rhythm. Or at least that's what Allen and Van Leuven did here.
Over the repetitive rhythms, Neil Hagerty played angular yet rippling guitar that was also repetitive, but in a completely different way, in that it explored the logical progression of chords within a limited space, which forced him to be more creative in how his repetitions worked. It was such a subtle shift in texture and rhythm that it might have been easy to miss. Like some of the work of the Velvet Underground, the combination of borderline dissonant guitar work, forcefully repetitive rhythms and female vocals as modified by Charles Ballas on guitar pedals, there was created a new kind of otherworldly music that was heady in its repetition.
Personal Bias: I got pretty heavily into the Room of Lights and Paradise Discotheque in the last ten years, and I never even entertained the idea that I'd ever get to see this band until this past summer.
Random Detail: Ran into Jill Razer, one of the band's tour managers in the old days, in addition to being a legendary Denver punk show promoter in the '80s.
By the Way: They had cool Brideship t-shirts for sale as well as the CD, An Introduction to...Crime & The City Solution.
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