The Taiwanese Grammy Award-winning pop-rock four-piece 1976 played song after song to its excited and singalong-happy crowd Wednesday at the Dominion. The mid-30s rockers explained toward the end of the showcase that the band’s name comes from each member’s shared birth year, and the group has obviously been busy since its formation back in the summer of ’96. Having released six studio albums, it’s no wonder the band’s success in Taiwan followed it to the U.S. for CMJ, as the packed venue suggested.
The group’s first track was full of chill, laid-back guitar melodies and had the crowd screaming along to the chorus, which sounded like “Love/Hate/Want/Need,” though the rest of the band’s lyrics were in Taiwanese. Lead singer Raykai Chen’s crooning vocals delighted the crowd, though he started the show with a very muted stage presence, holding his hands behind his back and showing off his Morrissey/Smiths T-shirt. The second song was a bit heavier on reverberating guitars, smashing cymbals from the drummer, and as the song settled into a groovier vibe, so did Chen. Sounding a bit like a Taiwanese version of the Strokes or Bloc Party, guitar licks as spiraling as the staircase onstage behind the band quickly led into an intricate guitar solo to close out the song. Channeling a garage-rock vibe but still sticking to the band’s pop qualities, 1976 busted out crescendo upon crescendo of screaming guitar solos and crashing drums on its third song of the night, slowly ending the track with the same happy pop melody with which it. In between songs, Chen animatedly spoke to the crowd members, who were quick to giggle at the banter. The fourth song 1976 performed had a faster pop-punk four-to-the-floor rhythm, heavy drumming and an instrument-driven chorus with Chen singing quickly in between, as the crowd busted out some dance moves. One of the group’s last songs began a bit more softly, but it quickly built up with help from the bass drum into a chorus of passionate “Whoa-oh-oh-oh”s from Chen, inviting the audience to chant along.
During a quick, translated Q&A session after the set, Chen explained that most of 1976′s songs are about love, which was clear from the mood of the music and the tone of Chen’s singing. Ending the Q&A session with the promise of a new album release some time next year, the crowd asked for one more song to no avail as 1976 left the stage.
Even with a late arrival and technical difficulties, singer/songwriter Beatriz Azevedo pumped the Dominion full of sensual jazz, tipping her hat at famous fellow Brazilian songwriter/composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as performing her own take on one of his pieces. Backed by a group of musicians on grand piano, upright bass, drums and more, Azevedo filled the small venue with her vibrant stage presence and samba-friendly vocals.
A booming bass drum beat, as well as the tapping of a drum stick against the snare drum, started Azevedo off on a strong note once the technical difficulties were aside as she moved across the stage effortlessly in her flowing purple dress, fishnets and red Mary Jane-style shoes. Incorporating many hand movements and gestures, Azevedo was easily able to engage with the small audience. Picking up an acoustic guitar during the set, Azevedo flaunted her instrumental skills as well as her vocals, bursting into shouted lyrics and jumping around as she played the guitar perfectly in time with the other musicians. Bringing two more musicians to the stage for added percussion, Azevedo’s voice became as velvety as the maroon coat she wore over her dress, and the red stage lighting suited the steamy atmosphere her songs created. Ending with her take on a Jobim standard, Azevedo’s take was meant purely for the most seductive of tangos, complete with a red rose going back and forth between dancers.
Azevedo, with the help of her backing instrumentalists, was a strong choice for Brazil Night as she captured the essence of traditional Brazilian rhythms without making them sound old and rehearsed, always making sure to heat things up with her own personal style.
All photos by Keeyahtay Lewis.