Last night: The Bad Plus at Soiled Dove

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The Bad Plus
The Soiled Dove
Monday, March 9, 2008
Better than:
the last time I saw the trio.

There's a live recording of Rahsaan Roland Kirk where he talks about how he's going to play two entirely separate songs on two different saxophones. One was Dvorak's New World Symphony and the other was the standard "Sentimental Journey." He said it's like splitting your mind into two parts, and equated it to one side of your brain saying, "Ob la di, ob la da" and the other asking, "What does it mean?"

There were times last night, during the Bad Plus's outstanding set, where it seemed like pianist Ethan Iverson was essentially doing something similar, where his hands seemed entirely non-dependent on each other, as on the song "Old Money," which he said was about "crime and punishment and the crimes that go unpunished." It was almost as if one hand was doing the crime and the other was punishing it. Drummer David King was punishing the beat on the song as well, even reaching underneath his snare drum and snapping the metal snare a few times. The trio tackled most of its instrumental set with equal vigor, opening with Stravinsky's "Variation d'Apollon," then "The Empire Strikes Backward" and "Anthem for the Earnest," both from the trio's 2005 release Suspicious Activity. 

After an insanely killer take on "Big Eater," singer Wendy Lewis joined the trio for Nirvana's "Lithium" and Wilco's "Radio Cure," both of which are on the band's new album, For All I Care. Lewis's vocals fit wonderfully with the trio. After a somewhat meditative rendition of "Blue Velvet," King then locked into a groove by himself, sometimes playing slightly offbeat and at times kicking polyrhythms on the bass drum before Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson joined in for an angular take on U2's "New Year's Day."

When the guys in Bad Plus play cover songs, they don't just "cover" a song; they deconstruct it or sometimes reconstruct it and make it their own, as they did with a number of covers last night, including the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love," Heart's "Barracuda" and Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," which got the biggest response from the crowd.

After a standing ovation, the band came out for a version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," which started off a cappella, with each member singing. The Flaming Lips' "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" was a stellar way to close out the show.

Personal Bias: I saw the Bad Plus at the Boulder Theater in 2007 and it was a great set, but seeing the guys up close at a place like the Soiled Dove made it that much more awesome.
Random Detail: I talked to Reid Anderson after the show and found out that I lived next door to him when I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
By the Way: I overheard a guy telling Wendy Lewis how good she sounded with the band, and she said something about how some of the hard-core Bad Plus fans were up in arms when they heard the band was bringing a singer on a board. It was like when Bob Dylan went electric. But a lot of those purists have since embraced her singing.

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