Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Live Review - The Gift @ Bowery Ballroom

Portugal has been in the center of pop culture more for their soccer players rather than musicians. The names Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho have all become synonymous for the beautiful country all due to the beautiful game. Yet, with a place as colorful and enthusiastic as Portugal, there needs to be a band and sound that compliment the country and no one has done and can do it better than The Gift. The Gift, who have been together since 1994 and just release their sixth record, Explode, returned to Bowery Ballroom and performed in New York City for the first time in five years.

On a short stop to North America (playing only two shows, Toronto and New York), The Gift lived up to the title of their latest record and exploded on site. Dressed in colorful attire, the seven members of the band came on stage with smiles on their faces and pride in their hearts and never took down their joy for a second. Singer Sonia Tavares looked like part gypsy punk, part traditional Porto garb and part flamboyant military leader as she strutted on stage and took over as if Bowery Ballroom was her house and we were her guests. Bowery Ballroom was jam packed with an audience of Portuguese and Mediterranean decent but it did not matter, most of the bands songs are in English and are as swelling as a rising ocean tide. Tavares, whose voice is a tenor with a massive vibrato flair to it compels the crowd, while her six band mates create vibrant psychedelic pop with a gypsy punk flair, in other words think Flaming Lips meets Gogol Bordello. Each song has an epic rise and sucks you in as if you were trapped in middle of the ocean during a monsoon and manages to restore you in such a beautiful way. They are all talented musicians and like their contemporaries, Arcade Fire, play multiple instruments at once and are constantly switching for each song. The highlights of the name came during the songs "Made for You," which left everyone in awe and the during the crowd pleasing "11.33" which was then followed up by a Depeche Mode cover of "Enjoy the Silence." It was a night and performance for those who have followed the band around and knew that it was worth the five year wait. Tavares would even joke about the band's rare Stateside appearance and said "Last time we were here, we played Mercury Lounge and saw a band called Vampire Weekend, they opened for us." The days of Vampire Weekend playing the 200 person Mercury Lounge are over and the days of The Gift playing there are done as well. For those that never saw the band before, The Gift were a true present.

Opening the night were New York natives, Xylos. Xylos have an incredible new wave sound to them and were the predecessor for The Gift. Fronted by the sultry and sexy Monika Heidemann who would gain the crowds attention with her Debbie Harry-esq front woman abilities. The band plowed through songs off their self-titled debut which was released back in April. With a box of light rods in front of the stage and catchy songs, Xylos had the crowd ready for action. In their hour long set they managed to walk away as if it was a co-headlining bill.