Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Peggy Sue (Schubas - June 14, 2010)

The true test of a collection of songs lies within the live performance. The same can be said about a band as some bands tend to excel more in a live setting that in a studio. In their second Chicago appearance, Peggy Sue proved that their songs are just as impressive live as they are in the studio, probably more so after witnessing how the pieces, band and instrumentation, come together.

During their 45 minute set, Peggy Sue did what could best be described as musical multi-tasking. Vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Rosa Slade and Katy Young sang perfect harmonies with each other while switching from acoustic and electric guitars used as both guitars and, to a degree, bass, ukulele, accordion and, also, backing up drummer Olly Joyce with extra percussion to complement his precise drumming. Each instrument used layered the band's overall, folk-influenced sound instead of being used for the sake of having another instrument.

"Watchman" took a delicate acoustic guitar part performed by Young while harmonizing with Slade on vocals while she assisted Joyce in creating a marching drum sound that added an extra layer eeriness to a song about someone watching someone as they watch somebody else. "Lazarus" featured bluesy fingerpicked arpeggios and vocals from Slade over a simple percussion track from Young and Joyce that lead into a marching rhythm before becoming a pulsating dance beat. Each of the numbers' strengths lied in soft, delicate nature of the vocals and the buildup of instrumentation which is heavier live than in the studio.

Concert openers Judson Claiborne and She Keeps Bees could not have been any different from each other. On any other concert bill, it would be a strange fit but both acts worked more with their headliner than each other. Local performer Claiborne and his backing band performed a brief set of sweet, melodramatic singer-songwriter pop songs with tremolo effects, violins and acoustic guitars. There was a pleasant mellowness to the songs that allowed them to flow into each other with very little banter aside from a few jokes from Claiborne. This was the kind of performance you would expect at a venue as intimate as Schubas.

Brooklyn's She Keeps Bees is likely to draw comparisons to The White Stripes due to it being a guitar/drum duo with a bluesy influence and singer Jessica Larrabee will undoubtedly be compared to PJ Harvey or Cat Power but that is as far as the comparisons go. Despite an issue with Larrabee's amp for a couple of songs, the duo, which includes drummer Andy LaPlant, provided the audience with a energetic and humorous set filled with several humorous anecdotes about Winnebagos and the aforementioned amp. Musically, their set balanced between muddy blues rock and songs that crawled their way to loudness while throwing in a breather featuring just vocals and drums. 

As a whole, it was as intimate of a show as you could possibly get. A small turnout for a band whose album, Fossils and Other Phantoms, will probably show up on many "best-of" lists at the end of the year. Those who turned out, however, enjoyed the overall show. Undoubtedly, those same people will definitely convince you to check out Peggy Sue during their next stateside visit if for nothing more than to see how they are more than capable of pulling off a very impressive debut live.

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