Review: tUnE-yArDs at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen
Published on September 16th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
For such a flamboyant talent, Merrill Garbus sure is an unassuming personality.
It’s almost quite bizarre to watch someone with such a considerable musical presence become such a shrinking violet for the between-songs banter, all bashful giggling, informal chit chat and playfully mocking her bass-playing boyfriend’s flowery suitcase…but it’s also downright refreshing to watch someone so obviously prepared to let their music do the talking for them.
Mind you, that comes much more easily when you’re culling the majority of your set from an album as steeped in awesomeness as w h o k i l l, Garbus’ sophomore effort under her tUnE-yArDS moniker.
A record that defies categorisation by dint of a joyous kitchen sink mentality rather than resorting to self-conscious genre exercises, w h o k i l l is looking increasingly like a shoe-in for Rocksucker’s Album of 2011 – and, if we thought we were alone in picking her up on this side of the pond, last night’s show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen proved us to be all kinds of wrong.
The venue was packed, the crowd ultra enthusiastic and responsive, and Garbus appeared pleasantly surprised by the experience. She needn’t be – her combination of looped beats, powerful/tender vocal delivery, intricate weavings of melody and (at least onstage) two-fold saxophone section simply demands attention.
There’s not an awful lot to add about each respective song – suffice it to say that she played most of the new album, a little bit of her debut Bird Brains, and the versions did not differ drastically from those on record – but this is music fit for the big time, let alone a packed-out crowd of in-the-knows.
This isn’t the hooting and hollering of some identikit, attention-seeking Gaga-a-like – this is the real deal, the perfect modern marriage of an adventurous, eccentric spirit with an ingenuity equal parts melodic and funky. This is the kind of thing the mainstream is crying out for.
And, yet, the kind of thing it will most likely continue to deprive itself of by dint of its misplaced valuation of what should constitute a pop star.In any fair world, tUnE-yArDs would have much bigger fish to fry than Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. But, if Garbus knows that, she sure as heck don’t show it.