Concert Review: Atlas Genius at The Studio at Webster Hall: 4/30/2013
Well that was unusual, yet strangely satisfying.
Having been named an “MTV Artist to Watch” Atlas Genius performed an intimate show at The Studio at Webster Hall in front of a couple of hundred excited fans and who-knows-how-many watching live online at MTV.com. Unlike two nights prior, when Vampire Weekend performed an “intimate” show that was also webcast live (my review here), in this truly tiny venue (capacity no more than 250, if that) the band was clearly playing for the people in front of the stage, not the ones in front of their monitors at home. Also, unlike their performance this past February in Brooklyn, Atlas Genius let their guards down and showed everything they had to offer, reinforcing why I was initially excited about these guys. After their Brooklyn show at Music Hall of Williamsburg (my review here), which was heavily promoted as their album release party and streamed live (and on replay) on SiriusXM Radio’s AltNation, I was worried that the band had gotten too polished too fast and lost their credibility as genuine artists. I held out hope though that this was a one night aberration based on the importance to Atlas Genius of this one show. The verdict is now in – it was a one night aberration. Tuesday night I got to see the Atlas Genius I was hoping to see back in February at MHoW.
The big moment came about halfway through the show when the band lost power to their speakers. Until that point it was a really good show, but with that unexpected – and potentially disastrous – turn of events, Atlas Genius stepped up to the challenge and turned a liability into an opportunity. Charismatic lead singer Keith Jeffery requested (and received) a hush from the crowd and the band performed a (kind of) acoustic rendition of their hit song “Trojans.” This was not only the highlight of the night, but it was something that anyone who witnessed it would no doubt remember for a long time. As far as live shows go, this was one of those special moments. It’s hard to recreate the atmosphere at the venue, but you can watch a video of the performance here:
After that the band left Keith all alone on stage to fend for himself for the remainder of the abbreviated show. He started strumming the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and eventually performed it solo, but unlike with “Trojans” you could not hear his vocals well, in part because the crowd was no longer silent. I suppose that the crowd at an intimate Atlas Genius show in the East Village has more respect for a Keith Jeffery original than a Paul McCartney one. Still, it was a valiant attempt and just hearing the sweet melody of “Blackbird” on guitar was a nice bonus. Jeffery then closed the set by singing the song that was originally interrupted by the power outage, “All These Girls,” asking the crowd to clap along so that he’d have a beat to play to. It wasn’t perfect, but all things considered, and with the pressure of the live MTV webcast, Atlas Genius – and Jeffery in particular – impressively saved the night. (I spoke to his brother, drummer Mike Jeffery, after the show and said something like “look at this – you’re the man,” pointing out the many fans (mostly girls) waiting to meet them. Mike said, “Not me, I’m a slacker. I walked off. He’s [pointing at Keith] the man.”)
After the show the guys hung around, greeting the fans and posing for pictures. They looked exhausted and could have easily have called it a night after the difficult show, but having seen them live three times now I know that it’s just not the Jeffrey way. The brothers smile and pose and engage in conversation long past when any fan should rightfully expect them to. (Click here for some pics from the show, including one with your favorite 2bitmonkey!) MTV thinks they’re an “MTV Artist to Watch.” I agree.
PS A great review and unbelievable photos can be found over at hopelessthunder.org (sorry, no direct link). One of the pics is of the pre-show setlist – you’ll notice how after the speaker blowup, the band went completely off plan. She also has pics and a review of the opening act, Wild Cub, which I missed.