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Girls, Dum Dum Girls, Leisure Last Night At Webster Hall: When Bad Sets Happen To Good Bands by Iman Lababedi

When I am not happy with a concert, and particularly if it is a band I admire, I check out the audience and see if it’s me or them.  San Francisco JAMC meets Brian Wilson (if that’s not a redundancy) band Girls sent the faithful bonkers exactly twice in their hour plus set at Webster Hall last night . Once during  their hit single “Lust For Life” (you know: “I wish I had a pizza, I wish I had a bottle of wine”) and once during the rowdy  show-off-y  and fun “Bad Ass Mean Motherfucker”. Other than that the crowd were politely cool.
This looked to have the potential of being one of the concerts of the year. First opening band Leisure have two great songs recently released, second band up is Sub Pop’s  Dum Dum Girls promoting their excellent debut album and the last time I saw Girls was in this very Hall last year, before their album Album was released and they made immediate believers of everybody waiting for Los Campesinos, with a light hearted and friendly set. At the time I wrote (on this website, search for Los Campesinos if you wanna read it) that they would be huge once the songs were avalable. I was right.
So w’appen?
At 7p, San Francisco  DJ Primo wasted everybodies time for fifteen minutes spinning 50s-early 60s blues, pop, r&b, which if you haven’t heard a million times you probably weren’t paying attention. He also played between sets and that was fine but it seemed syupid to keep the audience waiting.
Readers will be aware of my phobia for keyboard playing lead singers and, eeek, that’s what I  was stuck with on the first song by Leisure. But it was just a feint and lead singer, and absolute bandleader, soon steps up. Unfortunately I don’t know his name but it is either Sam or Jed or Chris. Here’s a pic of the leader:
Wearing a raincoat and a red sweater, Sam Jed  (if it’s not him please tell me somebody) takes hold of the set. Leisure claim the likes of the Smiths as a major influence… well, how about Jarvis Cocker? Looking so cool and louche, Sam Jed moved across the stage with a fluidity and an arrogance: a center of attraction appeal, the sorta stuff that is so English it is almost copyrighted. I can hear the Smiths, maybe XTC, on the record but not live: yeah Brett Anderson (of Suede) but there is something just a touch ironic about the lead singer (the other players – the usual plus keyboards- drift into the woodwork).
And then, three songs in, in a movement so cool they don’t teach it at rock and roll high school, he takes off his raincoat and settles into a very well paced set of literate, sexy, English popular rock music. Leisure are from Cambridge -Mass but please don’t ruin my stories hook.
Finally, with two songs left they pull out their single, “It’s Alright (On The Suez Canal)” -a really great pop song plus violins, and the less great but greater tonight “Outside These Walls”. The only time tonight somebody will improve on the recorded versions.
Lesiure creek a bit between songs, their patter needs work, the other members of the band owe it  to Sam to give him more of back-up presense. But give em a coupla tours under their belt -that’s all it takes. A well performed, well balanced and fun half hour which built to a great ending. For Your Lesiure…
Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls unpacks her guitar like she was unpacking her make up case and the rest of the band, who should be pretty happy with their well received and very, very good just released, I Will Be, show about the same enthusiasm.
Dum Dum Girls are a buzz chain saw drone rock all chick band who can write a song and sing a song and look really good, really uber-Femme rock and roll chick. But they are staggerringly boring on stage. Dum Dum Girls don’t talk to their audience, they stand still and rock back and forth on their heels, they don’t communicate between themselves: somewhere between stuck up and shy, they simply aren’t getting it right.
The set starts with a cover of the Stones “Play With Fire” as a droney, dirge,  depressed whinge. What the fuck was that about? “You Will Be Mine” sounds great but nobody will step up and lead the fucking band: they are all lipstick and eyeliner and attitude and for as well as they play, they apparently have nothing to add to the recorded versions.
Do these girls have management? Are Sub Pop fast asleep?
Somebody should grab em by the hair and stick em in front of a Karen O concert till they learn the ABCs of  entertaining an audience..
Girls were worst. I don’t get this set at all. I don’t know what these guys were thinking of. Have you ever read a book called “The Thorn Birds”. At some point a guy and his horse get stuck in a forest fire and at first the guy thinks “i guess my horse isn’t gonna make it out alive” and then a little later he realizes “I’m not gonna make it out alive either”. At first I thought the Girls set hadn’t happened yet and then I realized it wasn’t gonna happen at all.
Coming off the truly brilliant first album and playing to a packed out Webster Hall, the band delivered a plodding, boring,  by the numbers show they should be thoroughly ashamed of. I don’t care what shit you can get away with in Austin, Texas. You can’t pull it here. You’ve got to meet us half way. A song I really like, “Laura Marie” is lifeless, played a half beat slower than the record  it dies half way through. “Ghost Mouth” is worse, “Headache”… how can these great songs be so fucking boring? Why is the pacing so slow. Why do they back away from all momomentum they achieve?
 And if “Laura” is OK,  and a tasty harmonica break here, and a sonic blast of feed back there help, how long can you watch Christopher Owens lift up his leg like Ian Anderson and twist away before you wonder if that’s the only trick he has up hidden in his long hair.
Twenty minutes before the end and Girls  are out of tune and don’t fix it till the last song and finally it goes outta tune again for the encore. Are you kidding? That is pathetic.
At the end Chris says some crap about not talking much but he enjoyed. Well, you used to, and if you won’t now find somebody who will. That’s why I write songs, he replies, as mealy mouthed and untrusworthy as you can imagine. CONNECT WITH YOUR FUCKING AUDIENCE AND PACE THE FUCKING SET.
The stench of arrogance was overwhelming and with New York City just waiting to love Girls, Girls wouldn’t  put out.

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