Live Last Night: The Bird and the Bee

If you came of musical age during the '80's (especially if you went on to work as a rock critic) and are still paying attention to musical trends (or getting paid to), then listening to current bands that recombine elements from that decade can be great fun. Or greatly annoying.

The Bird and the Bee swung towards both extremes during a performance at the Barns of Wolf Trap last night, but their underpinning of jazz, '60's pop and kitsch marked the Los Angeles-based band as more than mere revivalists.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

The overt Kate Bush, Everything But the Girl and Eurythmics influences in the songs of vocalist/bassist Inara George (daughter of Little Feat's Lowell George) and keyboardist/synth man Greg Kurstin (founding member of Geggy Tah) sounded best when they were injected with sweeping melodic energy.

"Again and Again," for example, bounced and burbled behind George's chirpy vocals and Kurstin's big, buzzy synth. When the duo --backed by three female singers who also contributed minor instrumental accents -- really beat their wings (OK, sorry, last one), tunes such as "Love Letter to Japan," and "Polite Dance Song" soared, thrumming like a glittery cross between Soft Cell and the Magnetic Fields.

A cover of the Hall and Oates hit "I Can't Go For That" was even better, cutting the cheese and revving up the emotional desperation and robotic drive.

"Raygun," "Witch" and "Preparedness" left that melodic sweep out and as a result quickly grated, sounding like so much Sade album filler. That plastic-jazz formula did work once, though, on a tender encore of the Bee Gees song, "How Deep Is Your Love."

If George and Kurstin concentrate on pulling the stomp and sweep from their influences, their shiny pop confections have the potential to keep even the most jaded '80's survivors from thinking about the past at all.

-- PATRICK FOSTER

By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 5, 2009; 12:31 PM ET Live Last Night
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