New York, NY
continued from NiÃ±o Rojo review
Banhart took the stage at the Bowery Ballroom alone, as one might expect, and opened solo with “Little Yellow Spider.” Gesticulating with his right hand as if conducting a parade of the happy-grotesque animals catalogued in the song, the tweaks and vocal flourishes Banhart indulges made the performance of the song significantly different than the album cut.
Nothing, however, had prepared me for the hour of absolute sonorous joy that ensued. Five “friends” â€” electric bass and guitar players, a drummer, and an acoustic guitar player (a comrade from Banhart’s side project Vetiver) â€” joined him for the remainder of the show, filling out the bounce and swagger of the guitar-and-singer formula. As a result, the raucous fugue-like shuffle ending to “This Beard is for Siobhan” became an even rowdier stomp-a-long exhortation to “have a real good time, a good time, a real good time.” The additional instrumentation was wisely used not to extend the length of the songs with boring jam sessions, but instead merely added to the breadth of each song’s already finely crafted structure, and occasionally adding a decorative lick.
The set list was noticeably lacking in material from Oh Me Oh My, including only the brief instrumental “Tick Eats the Olive” and a minor-key transposition of the usually warmer tune “Michigan State” (a song boasting some of his best lyrical wordplay). Most songs were from NiÃ±o Rojo, but highlights were “Will is My Friend,” “A Sight to Behold” and a surprising but glorious cover of an old reggae tune.
Onstage, the bandmembers often embraced one another, rubbed heads, and otherwise expressed their affection. The bass player wore a crown of bright flowers. Looking around the crowd, this was definitely NOT Woodstock (I think popular culture is too self-conscious for that now), but the love onstage had an effect on the audience and the on the music, too. I was smiling the entire show; it was beyond pleasant. They had a real good time. We had a real good time. We all had a real good time.