Sunday, June 18, 2006

Still giddy about ABC

ABC played the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, N.H., of all places!
Friday night my wife and I went to see the 80s synthpop band ABC at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry [the Good Luck Joes opened for them] and I am still giddy about the experience.
To start, I was happy to see that I wasn't the oldest person in the room. I was additionally happy to see that I wasn't the chubbiest person in the room [not clubbiest; chubbiest!]. And I was also happy to see Sean and Liz from Freezepop there [!], with their friend Craig [who looks strikingly similar to my old bud Doug Gintzler]. They were nice enough to let us sit at their table and it was good to see them after soooo many years [They aren't "friends" per se; just acquaintances. I am a fan of their band and have a bunch of their CDs, and also interviewed them on WMFO and in the Belmont Citizen-Herald since one of their members lives in Belmont].
Liz was surprised that the band wasn't playing in Boston - only Londonderry and Hartford, CT. My wife asked how they found out about the gig and Sean said Liz read about it on one of the Internet boards, rolling his eyes.
I'd been meaning to come down to the Tupelo to see a band for awhile but just never got the chance despite some pretty fine shows. Owner Scott Heyward appeared on my A&E show at the club's one year anniversary and I've done some interviews with appearing artists, including a strange one with Leon Redbone right around the time Katrina hit.
But after interviewing Martin Fry of ABC on the radio, I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to see them in a place like the Tupelo.
Fry seemed a little uneasy when the band first started playing. Dressed in an orange twill suit with a black shirt - very Halloween actually - he looked out of sorts. In fact, the look on his face into the first song said it all: It was one of half embarrassment, half "Spinal Tap" ala the scene where the puppet show received higher billing at this amusement park they played.
"What the hell am I doing here?" he seemed to wonder.
But by the third song, "Poison Arrow," if I recall correctly, and clearing up some earphone mix adjustments, he seemed to get into the show a bit more and truly warmed up the place and crowd. I initially wondered if he hadn't checked out the empty hall before bounding on stage because he truly seemed surprised by the tables and intimacy of being able to look everyone in the eye.
Of course, it helped that there was a pretty raucous crowd in attendance. While not dancing right away, the crowd was cheering loudly from the start, including a few women in their mid-to-late 30s from bouncing around [ isn't really a site, it is kinda like a portal or something. Their picture from the show is here: " girls"]. My wife remarked that it was like being at a very weird wedding.
Fry looked much older than before [granted, it has been 20 years since their last big hit] but thankfully, not tired, and still as cool as all hell.
As promised, he ran through all the hits - "When Smokey Sings," a revamped "Be Near Me," "Date Stamp," and the cheesy "How to be a Millionaire" - while saving the best for last, "The Look of Love." There were even a few tracks I didn't recognize, including something called "Ride" which had a harder, more dissodant feel to it and pretty cool guitar work in it [actually, the guitar work, while limited in places, was impressive]. Fry said he would be trying out a few new ones and that one at least stood out.

The Good Luck Joes opened and played a fine set although I wouldn't describe them as sounding like a cross between Coldplay and Wilco because the band was a tad more Plain Jane than those bands although not bad. I guest I was expecting a bit more experimentation, especially after hearing the description [Who writes those things? They set the band up ...]. The band members can play ... the singer can sing and strum ... but the songs weren't memorable. Sometimes when you see a young band, the songs just knock you in the face. It isn't often the playing that turns you on, because they are a young band. This time though, it was the other way around. They could play but the songs didn't blow you away. They were simply good and that's OK too. I also didn't really like the lead guitarist's tone very much and I couldn't hear the keyboards drowned in the mix but the bass player played well and looked all of 15. I will check out some mp3s online and see if I change my mind on the studio stuff.

If you haven't been to the Tupelo yet, it is a great place to see a band. Just a few miles from the Exit 4 on I-93, the place is like a large barn/shed attached to a residence. There were about 100 chairs with tables and probably could house about 120 people comfortably. They have a small PA but it wasn't too soft and wasn't overpowering. You didn't have to scream to talk to the person next to you while at the same time, folks around you weren't making so much noise you couldn't hear a thing. I reminded me of a small 1950s supper club.


Anonymous said...

Tupelo *is* the same place where my friend saw Howard Jones this winter. You've described it exactly as she did. You didn't say whether you spoke with Martin Fry at Tupelo. . .

I can't believe the English Beat is playing there two times this week. They were my very favorite band when I was a kid and I never got to see them because they broke up before I was old enough to drive. Now that I can drive, I have to go to work, but I'm going to see if I can do the Thursday show. I wish you'd interview them (hint, hint)!

Tony said...

I won't be able to get them on this week because I only have one show due to Quarry Dogs baseball, on Thursday. I will have on, however, Susie Burke, who is playing the Arizona with her husband, David Surette, and Rebecca Rule, who is doing a literary comedy theatre piece on Saturday, with Brit comic writer Claire Robson.