Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Live Review - A Million Years @ Spike Hill

Once In A Million Years: A Million Years at Spike Hill

By Jared Zeidman*

A concert review is supposed to be a summary of the on stage event that took place. But what A Million Years did on Friday night at Brooklyn’s famed Spike Hill is worthy of a little more context.

A Million Years entered the fall of 2010 ambitiously touring up and down the East Coast in support of their first full-length album, Mischief Maker. As the touring continued, AMY developed a good following, and some radio play, which opened up some pretty unexpected doors. After opening for 30 Seconds to Mars and Phoenix, they caught the eye of New York City cult sensation Jesse Malin, who not only asked AMY to open for him in the tri-state area, but also in an extended tour of the U.K. to ring in the New Year. The band then got what they expected to be their most important hometown gig ever, a direct support opening slot for indie juggernauts, Klaxons, at Webster Hall.

Five hours before the start of Friday night’s show, the members of the band were informed that the Klaxons due to personal reasons had canceled their entire US tour. That kind of news for an up and coming group is pretty crushing. That show could have been their breakout show. And instead, they had to multitask between sulking about it, and preparing for a show merely hours later.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Spike Hill, while having a ton of charm, is roughly the size of my two bedroom apartment. And since the club didn’t do advance ticket sales, there was no idea what kind of crowd would be in attendance. A Million Years’ had spent a great deal of time trying to get people to the Klaxons show, and now would going to be playing to a crowd that at full capacity, would be less than a quarter of the size of what they are accustomed to.

All things considered, I guess this is what I am trying to say. A Million Years could have potentially put on the worst concert ever. The circumstances were all there. They could have just gotten insanely drunk and made a mockery of the entire event; and they would have been forgiven by anyone who knew what had just happened to them.

Instead, they put on the best show I’ve ever seen them play.

The band met less than an hour before the show and apparently put the stamp on a plan to drastically alter the set list. When the stage lights hit, AMY opened with the song “Incandescent,” which, to my knowledge they have only ever played as their closing number, due to the fact that it ends with what I can only describe as a 30 second noise jam. Keith Madden said at the end of the song, “now we have high energy, and we are going to keep that high energy going.”

The high energy never stopped. In fact, it seemed like the energy was contagious.

Nick Werber, on multiple occasions, turned his back to the crowd and buried both his guitar and his face into his amp cabinet as he played his solos. It’s a move that I’m sure is taking a million years off his ability to hear (ba dum cha!), but also a move that allows him the ability to manipulate the noise of feedback as a tangible part of the music; something he did seamlessly all evening.

The Rhythm section played as tight as any live act I had seen in the last two years. Andrew Vanette had exceptional command from the throne, and Andrew Samaha’s presence was both visible and audible, particularly in the song “Poster Girl” where his bass line works in tandem with Madden’s vocals.

Keith Madden was, without question, a front man. There is a Thom Yorke element to his mystique, where Madden looks like your run of the mill guy who is just very gracious and modest, and just happens to be a brilliant lyricist and solid guitar player who becomes one of the most enigmatic figures you’ve ever seen when you put him on a stage.

The band played none of their older material, instead playing almost all of Mischief Maker, three new songs, and a David Bowie cover, before ending with “California Smile,” which the packed house chanted back at them. But even as their set ended, the crowd participation didn’t wane. After a chant for an encore, Keith and Nick made a personal dedication for what would be their final song of the night, a cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries. The best part of the encore may not have even been the fact that the cover was outstanding (particularly due to Vanette nailing the drum part and Werber and Madden exceptionally handling the vocal harmony), but rather the fact that everyone in the crowd apparently knew the words to the 90s hit and all sang it in unison, much like they sang a lot of AMY’s big tunes.

Could you stop after saying that they put on a great show? Yes, you probably could. But to me, the Spike Hill gig exemplified what people have come to expect from a band that has the best attitude you could possibly ask for in a group of musicians. They clearly do not take themselves, as individuals, very seriously. However, they take what they do more seriously than nearly any major band I can think of, and they still treat every gig like it is extremely important.

This combination of personal modesty and thorough care of their craft has gained them a following that is almost indescribable. It has turned them into a band that all of New York is now solidly rooting for.

And on a night when a breakout band delivered a breakout show, when they could have just as easily phoned it in, why wouldn’t you root for them?

**Jared Zeidman is a contributing writer to Officially A Yuppie. He runs the sports website Take Over The Game.