The weirdness of Le Baron seemed to line up perfectly with the next artist in the venue’s Absolut Encore concert series, Dan Black. Strange five-legged octopi (pentopi?) figures mounted on the walls looked on as the British singer hopped on stage backed by a band consisting of a guitar player, Monkey, and a drummer, Rabbit (who were each wearing oversized masks with beaten-up versions of said animal). Black himself was rocking some very Adam Ant-inspired make-up that got progressively more smudged throughout the set as he danced his ass off around the stage.
“It’s so nice to be back!” Black exclaimed at the beginning of his set. This show marked his first in New York City in two years—the last was when he was in town promoting his first release ((UN)) in 2010. With a new record on deck to be released in early 2013, Black was clearly loving being back on stage, and genuinely appreciative of the absolutely packed house. The intimate space was fire-hazard-level packed; people stood on the stairs because there was no other place to stand. Mr. Black has clearly been missed these past two years.
Black played an admittedly short set, promising that the next time he returns to the city, he would play “much, much longer.” Among crowd pleasers like “Symphonies” and “U + Me,” Black unleashed a few new songs. Fans of his first album will be glad to know that his new stuff fits into that same up-beat, “wonky-pop” window, with “Plastic Hearts” being the stand out track (for me, anyways) of the four new ones he played.
Live, Black’s voice is versatile and his performance was near flawless. The recorded versions of his songs don’t really do him justice, and I was taken aback at the pure technical strength of his voice as he managed to hit note after note with powerful precision while still dancing around and operating his musical machinery. Black is the kind of artist that you become a fan of through his albums, and fall in love with him for his live performance.
The regular set concluded with a personal favorite, “Alone.” Here Black gave a stand out vocal performance exhibiting all the best aspects of his voice from falsetto to unexpectedly booming upper register.
After a quick one-song encore of “Ecstasy,” Black thanked the crowd once again, noting that it was nice to be remembered after two years of absence. He then took a quick bow before scampering off stage, seemingly almost bashful at the amount of applause his performance had garnered.