Ian Cooke and Laylights Saturday, April 12, 2008 Bluebird Theater Better Than: Any other show I’ve seen from either act
Though I was secretly skeptical about this weekend’s big Laylights CD release show, not only were my low expectations completely blown away, but I also came out of the show with a whole different opinion of these two artists as live acts.
First of all, my apologies are due to Andrea Ball for missing her set. Though her MySpace predation has put me off a bit, I’m definitely eager to catch her soon. Blame my tardiness on great company and the wonderful hospitality of the PS Lounge.
Shortly after I arrived at the Bluebird, Ian Cooke took the stage. Like most people who’ve ever met Cooke or heard his music, I love both. However, he is often prone to onstage gaffes that detract from his endearing persona and admirable musicianship. These blunders are excusable, considering that Cooke often chooses to perform alone and – with the help of his not-always-cooperative loop station – manage his multi-layered compositions single-handedly. This weekend’s performance, however, was almost completely error-free and the singer/songwriter/cellist/looper was in the finest form I’ve ever seen.
Cooke leaned heavily on tunes from his jaw-dropping CD, The Fall I Fell, but opened his set with a much older tune, “The Race.” The talented bowslinger also deftly incorporated clever covers of Abba (“Gimme Gimme Gimme”) and Dolly Parton (“9 to 5”). As a friend observed, Cooke seemed to hold the sizable crowd in the palm of his hand as he crafted lush orchestrations and even a couple of beat-heavy dance arrangements (thanks to loops of bridge-tapping and string-scraping) with only his hands, feet and unique voice. The attentive crowd even sang along loudly to some of the performer’s well-known songs – most notably “Vasoon.” In his usual humble style, Cooke carefully and unassumingly wowed the audience, who would have accepted gladly an encore.
However, it was time for the main event. While I’ve always enjoyed Laylights’ recordings, there has been more than one occasion when I’ve left the quartet’s live show early because it failed to move me. It’s a shame when such great songs don’t get the right sell on stage. This was not a problem on Saturday night at all. Martin Baker, Chris Martucci, Ian McCumber and Tyler Hayden came to set the Bluebird – and the hearts of a number of young girls – on fire with the best performance they’ve given so far.
Though the set focused on tracks from the new EP, Auricle, Laylights played some crowd-pleasing favorites, including “Sparrow,” which the audience immediately greeted with appreciative whoops and whistles. All four members of the band were more physically active and interactive than I’ve ever seen them, playing with charisma, confidence and passion. Hayden is, of course, a born rock star, and he got the balance between boasting and brooding just right this time. When McCumber and Martucci joined in with backing vocals, this foursome had all the power and presence of a much more experienced – and famous – rock band.
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Of course, great smoke and lights do wonders to create that mythical, larger-than-life rock-n-roll fantasy, and Saturday night’s show had both in spades. Lighting designer Tory Stubby brought in some of his favorite toys and pulled out all the stops to give this show the feeling of a real EVENT. I won’t pretend to know anything about lights, but the dramatic, ethereal and spectacular effects gave the already-impressive performance added strength and substance. With so much musical brawn and such dazzling beauty, it was easy to imagine I was witnessing rock superstars at a stadium instead of four strikingly talented homeboys in a small theater. -- Eryc Eyl
Personal Bias: More than one person commented that love seemed to be in the air on Saturday night. I think some got in my eyes – and ears – and affected my normally objective and rational appraisal of the show.
Random Detail: Two gentlemen standing near me missed Ian Cooke’s phenomenal set almost completely because they were having an absurdly loud conversation – about Bela Karoli.
By the Way: For a taste of Auricle – and a tasty video – click here check out Laylights’ “Tiger”.