Live Review: Constantines, Ladyhawk and d.biddle at hi-dive

Reveling in the man-child simpleness of Lady Hawk (photos by Jim Narcy).

Constantines, Ladyhawk, d.biddle Tuesday, July 8, 2008 Hi-Dive Better than: The Springsteen box set.

So sometimes a guy is just wrong. No excuses. No buts. The guy is just wrong. I am that guy right now. This very moment. Sitting here. While I was standing in a good sized crowd of people, listening to Ladyhawk, debating whether or not to hit the head, a sensation of foolishness and stupidity hit me. I turned back to the stage, in time for flecks of sweat to hit me courtesy of Ladyhawk front man Duffy Driediger and face my mistakes.

On this night, d.biddle sounded forced and theatrical.

Thing I was wrong about Part One: d.biddle. When I saw the band last I had enjoyed its set. It was pleasant and easy to swallow. Second time around was a less enjoyable. There is no mistaking the dynamics of this outfit. Songs swing and swell, and sometimes reach for the rafters. Still, even though the group tries to squeeze as much emotion as it can from the songs, it still ends up sounding forced and theatrical. Honestly, d.biddle could make a song about a back-alley blowjob sound like Moulin Rouge. Lead singer Duncan Barlow has an excellent voice that borrows from the best (Bowie, Jeremy Enigk, etc.), but the band's humorless, dour, programmed execution leaves little to enjoy the second time around, especially this night.

Ladyhawk, you had us at "hello."

Thing I was wrong about Part Two: Ladyhawk. Oh man, here is where I feel like a clown. I was thoroughly annoyed by these grizzly men the first time I checked these guys out; tonight, however, slayed my face. Where d.biddle relied on flash and flawlessness, Ladyhawk just lurched up on stage and rocked. Sounding like a hung-over caveman (or Sabbath and Dinosaur JR), Ladyhawk did what it was built to do, play three-minute bursts of rock music, with soulful (sometimes tuneless) vocals and random jagged melodies -- a simple equation that worked throughout its set. The only speed bump came at the end when the band played its ten-minute epic “Ghost Blues,” blunting the rush of the set.

A kinder, gentler version of the Constantines.

Thing I was wrong about Part Three: the Constantines. I love this band, but the new record has me in a pickle. Where the act's earlier material sounded like a wild-eyed beast caught in a cage, the new album, Kensington Heights, is completely lost on me. Subtle? Yes. But still, where is the unpredictable band I fell in love with? Opening their set, the Constantines went straight for their rockers, sounding especially amped during “Nightime/Anytime.” When the group transitioned into its slower material, like the newbie “Time Can Be Overcome,” it sounded like an altogether different band, and seemed to grow more comfortable in the languid pace. Maybe, like d.biddle, the Constantines are growing up, but I enjoyed the man-child simpleness of Ladyhawk, who didn’t admit its mistakes, but reveled in them.

-- Jeremy Brashaw

Critic’s Notebook

Random Detail: Throughout the show, there seemed to be a contest between Ladyhawk and the Constantines to see who could get the other more drunk. By the end of the show the Constantines had won. By the Way: Constantines singer Bryan Webb sounds like Bruce Springsteen. I can’t deny it anymore.

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