THE BAD PLUS at THE ORIENTAL THEATER | 10/19/13 After the Bad Plus opened its set with "Pound for Pound" and "Wolf Out," bassist Reid Anderson told a packed Oriental Theater, "We have to roll out the brand tunes because it's that time of year," he said. "The season changes. We have to change up. We have to evolve just like everything." The trio worked four new songs into its hour-and-a-half long set, three cuts from its most recent effort, last year's Made Possible as well as other tunes from albums released over the last decade.
See also: The Bad Plus makes good on Made Possible
The trio, which also features pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer Dave King, eased into the set with Anderson's stunning ballad "Pound for Pound," which is also the opening cut on Made Possible. It started off somewhat placid and relaxed, with King hitting the snare lightly and Iverson cycling through a simple melody repeatedly, and it seemed that with every few cycles the song gradually and subtly intensified, with King hitting the snare a bit harder, until the song peaked, and the band ended it on about the same level as they started it.
Over the last thirteen years, these guys have clearly shown that they can be equally gripping on the ballads as they are on the more intense and visceral cuts, like King's aggressive song "Wolf Out," which also appears on Made Possible. After playing that cut, Anderson joked that King was working on a very powerful strain of medical marijuana of the same name.
Iverson's commanding solo on his new composition, "Mr. Now," garnered a fair amount of applause and yells, as did King's brief yet thunderous solo. After Anderson introduced another new Iverson's composition, "Inevitable Western," he added, "I always like to add that it's a Western than can't be avoided." The song opened with Anderson playing an unhurried bass line before King joined in on a laid-back beat, providing the pulse with rim shots and a rope of bells in the other hand.
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After delving into "You Are," from 2010's Never Stop, and "Anthem for the Earnest," from 2005's Suspicious Activity?, the trio went into "Adopted Highway," a new King composition that ended up being one of the more adventurous cuts of the night. During the tune, Iverson stood up, reached into the piano, and it sounded like he was scraping the strings; throughout other sections of the song, Iverson's left hand was heavy way down on the lower register, making the piece sound somewhat sinister. But the last part of song was rather meditative with Iverson repeating a Erik Satie-esque phrase.
Although Anderson said that conventional wisdom would dictate that they follow a contemplative piece of music like that with some more louder and more boisterous, he said they were just going to buck convention and play a quieter piece, and the group then went into "People Like You," a gorgeous ballad from Never Stop that elicited an excited "Yeah!" from a guy in the audience after they finished it.
Following another new cut by King, Iverson dabbled on the piano while Anderson took a hilarious stab at being a lounge singer, telling the folks in the crowd how beautiful they were and that were CDs and T-shirts in the lobby. After ending the set with a vigorous take on "Seven Minute Mind," most of the people in the audience immediately gave the band a standing ovation and offered booming applause. A few minutes later, the Bad Plus closed out an brilliant night of music with Aphex Twin's "Flim."
Personal Bias: These guys continue to fascinate and confuse me. Random Detail: Ethan Iverson played piano on stage long after most of the crowd had left and the stage was cleared. By the Way: Opener Joshua Trinidad Quartet, which also included guitarist Thomas Murray, bassist Mike Brown and drummer Gregg Ziemba, delivered an excellent set of completely improvised music.