So it's been a whirlwind week - three shows in seven days, in three cities. Whew! I've already given the dirt on my Prince Minneapolis experience (see below). This will be less substantial, but thought I'd put some thoughts down anyway.
This past Thursday, I caught Battles at The Picador in Iowa City. I'd been anticipating this show for about a month. A friend of mine hipped me to their record, and they are doing some truly unique stuff. I have great difficulty describing them to friends. Usually I say something to the effect of "mostly instrumental rock/experimental." Yet this description fails and makes them sound like a jam band, which they are not. Here's the video for their single, "Atlas."
So that should give you some idea. Live, they are both masters of their instruments and of samplers. Note that none of the samples they use in concert are pre-recorded; they sample themselves playing live, then manipulate it as they see fit. This was seriously one of the most intense rock shows I've ever been to. Jucifer is the only other band that I can think of that matched Battles in intensity. Also, The Picador was packed, which is rare at least from the shows I've seen there. It was 8 of the best spent dollars this year. Their album, Mirrored is available on Warp Records and is a contender for album of the year in my book.
The very next morning, I made my way to the bluegrass state for another highly anticipated (albeit more expensive) show, the reunited Police. The Police are in my top 10 bands of all time. They have no flaws in their catalog in my opinion (barring "Don't Stand So Close to Me '86"). I got into them through a bandmate in high school, and along with the Talking Heads, were one of the bands I most wanted to see reunite, but knew there was no chance that it would happen. Or so it seemed.
At any rate, we got to Churchill Downs intentionally late. We were hungry and didn't care about the opener. After scoping the merchandise (again overpriced) and making a pit stop, we were hopelessly trying to find our seats when we heard "Message in a Bottle" kick in. Cripes. We made it to our seats by the end of the song.
So how was it? I was nervous, as the tour had met with mixed reviews thus far. I felt it necessary to evaluate it song by song. Many of the performances were tight and well executed ("Roxanne," "When the World is Running Down," "So Lonely," "The Bed's Too Big Without You") and others left a bit to be desired ("Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Driven to Tears"). The songs that I felt were lackluster were generally because they dropped the tempo significantly. One of the great things about the Police is the energy of their songs. Drop the tempo by about 1/8, and that energy is lost. I was also a little put off by the use of DAT backing for the vocals in "Roxanne" and percussion in I think "Walking in Your Footsteps." I understand why it was used, but not having it would not have detracted from the performances by any means.
So it was a bit of a mixed bag. I didn't leave feeling disappointed or that I'd wasted my money. But it wasn't as solid a performance as I would have hoped. But it was still the Police, fer Chrissakes.