IO Echo, Kenna, She Wants Revenge October 11, 2007 Gothic Theatre Better than: Wearing out your vinyl copy of Floodland.
Upon arriving at the Gothic for last night’s She Wants Revenge show, the first thing that struck me was the diversity of the crowd. There were dolled-up big-hair girls, hippie guys, LoDo dance club kids and, of course, plenty of black-clad, buckled-up Goths – many of indeterminate gender. Because the LA-based band blends elements of club music and Goth theatrics, along with plenty of 80s influences, they apparently draw from many milieu.
The next thing I noticed was the six people on stage, performing a faithful and respectable cover of the Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy,” one of my personal favorites from Abbey Road. Though the band rocked impressively through this cover and some enjoyable originals, it was never quite clear why the group required six people to produce a fairly ordinary rock sound. The frontwoman, who looked like a cross between Karen O and Patricia Morrison – or maybe just a stick-figure drawing of Amy Lee – was appropriately dramatic and fun to watch, even when the music dragged a bit.
The real drag of the night, however, was Kenna – the name of both a man and a band. Comely Ethiopian frontman Kenna Zemedkun took the stage with the confidence and swagger of a much bigger star (he just came off tours with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake), but didn’t deliver. His band’s neo-soul pop had all the spirit and integrity of a Twinkie, and came off sounding like a particularly inept combination of Level 42 and Simply Red, with some JT-style backup vocals thrown in – you know, for the ladies. This was quite possibly the whitest music performed by a black man since Hootie and the Blowfish.
She Wants Revenge, however, did not disappoint the throng of folks who crushed each other at the apron of the stage. The last time I caught the act was at a sold-out show at the Larimer Lounge, but it was heartwarming to see them packing in the crowds as a headliner at a venue like the Gothic. The band treated the ghoulish audience to several old favorites from its delightfully danceable 2006 debut album, but also pounded out note-perfect versions of tracks for its latest album, This Is Forever, which just came out this week. Lead vocalist Justin Warfield is not only a talented singer and dramatic performer, but also a remarkably charismatic frontman. At one point, he took a break between songs to apologize to a woman in the audience for not shaking her hand (he had a cold, he explained, and didn’t want to spread his germs). At another point, he peppered the lyrics of one of his songs with lines from Jane’s Addiction’s “Ted, Just Admit It.” While comparisons to Bauhaus and Joy Division are inevitable, She Wants Revenge really works because it is clear that the band is having so much fun with their particular, self-conscious take on Gothic dance music. As professional entertainers, the group played a well-executed, well-timed set that sent the throbbing crowd home on a positive (if positively dark) note. -– Eryc Eyl Photos by Doug Beam
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I wrote about SWR for this paper just as their debut album was released and have since had a soft spot for their theatrical genre-pop, even when the lyrics get a little silly. Random Detail: The press release in my inbox about Kenna informs me that he recently performed his latest single on the TV show, Ellen. Figures. By the Way: SWR’s Justin Warfield has had quite a varied musical career. In the mid-90s, he had a grunge-esque rock band called the Justin Warfield Supernaut. Prior to that, he released a “psychedelic rap” album called My Field Trip to Planet 9. He can also be heard rapping about Naked Lunch in the Bomb the Bass track, “Bug Powder Dust.”