In my round-up of 2014, two of my top 10 favourite albums were “Goliath” by Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil, and “Solid Gold Heart” by Jad Fair & Danielson. I recently had the opportunity to go to New York and by an extreme coincidence I managed to get tickets to see both Danielson and Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil live, together, in New York people, (thanks my wife for her significant birthday, and subsequent surprise trip to NYC that I organised).
The gig was down on 12th street at Webster hall, the studio room, (think king tuts wah wah hut in Glasgow and you’re not too far off.) We took the subway down and found something to eat before heading to the venue. Where we caught the last two songs of the opening band, who sounded very similar to Franz Ferdinand.
Danielson was advertised as appearing in his 9 fruit tree. Having followed Daniel Smith through his Danielson Famile, Brother Danielson, Danielsonship and Danielson guises I knew what to expect. Danielson Famile started as a masters thesis project in which Daniel wrote some songs and played them live with his family as a performance piece. From that had come an avant-garde series of albums, featuring falsetto vocals, hand-made matching costumes and songs about dragons and the Holy Spirit, and struggle in how to be an artist and christian. You can see the trailer to the 2006 movie about him here (Danielson Movie Trailer). The Danielson experience is creative, otherworldly, polarizing, beautiful and like all the best art in the world, great fun.
They put up the 9 fruit tree, representing the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit, it was so big it was hit the roof from its stage performance and required two tree technicians to assemble. With a guitar attached to the tree, Daniel stands in the tree and sings his songs. The audience participate in this with clap alongs, snap alongs, and during the song “Don’t You Be the Judge”, from the Tri-Danielson-Omega album, we had the audience making up verses and shout/singing them as part of the song. Having seen Danielson hit an unsuspecting audience before (in Glasgow on a UK Tour) I have seen this go not so well. In NYC on a Tuesday evening, it went brilliantly with every verse shouted/sung with vigour, leaving Daniel happy and slightly bemused while the room smiled, laughed, and sung along. This was emblematic of the role Danielson played in setting the right temperature of the room for the next act.
Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil took the stage and started to rock out and room caught it. The band, Steve Taylor (Lead Vocals) Jimmy Abegg (Guitar) John Mark Painter (Bass) and Peter Furler (Drums), are set up as a simple, lean, rock’n’roll band, with drums, bass, guitar and a tall thin singing besuited gentleman. This wasn’t fancy big stadium stuff, it was more a was a grab for the heart of american modern rock. The band sounded great, tight as you would expect from these performers, Steve’s singing is consistently on the money with a great delivery. The songs are mostly straight rock with the odd bit of disco, reggae and a beautiful cover version which perfectly morphs into a live version of “Cash Cow” from the Squint album. it is a thing of beauty and joy. The live version of songs from 2014’s Goliath are awesome, and the songs from the back catalogue are handled brilliantly, Stand outs in the live contact were, “Comedian”, “Moonshot”, “Double Negative” from Goliath and “Easy Listening” and “Hero” also stood out significantly. NB I am pretty sure they played “sympathy vote” and I liked it, but the song kicks set list says they didn’t, so who knows?
As a concert experience it is impossible to ignore the manic, energetic, stage performance of Steve Taylor. Its is a remarkable piece of stage craft which dominated the performance. The Webster Hall studio stage isn’t the biggest in the world, he covered every inch of it several times. This energy complimented the attitude on stage with a real sense of the band enjoying being a band together. It was noticeable that this wasn’t Steve Taylor with some backing musicians, but it seemed like there was a real enjoyment of being together, and working with each other. Creating a space where the songs could flourish grow arms, and grab you into them. It really was a great show, with great music bringing a great big smile for everyone.
Anyway I came away singing “Man makes plans, God Laughs.” from Comedian. My wife came away thinking “Why didn’t he either put a hip out, or fall over from being dizzy?” Both true, both provoked by a fantastic evening.