David Bronson has been raving about his guitarist Robbie Mangano since forever but watching him play bass for Bronson at Bronson’s acoustic set at Fontana’s last February, I didn’t see what the fuss was about. Robbie was very good, sure, but he was playing with one of the best singer songwriters around and one of the best singer songwriters around was at the height of his game (my review here), so yeah sure, but so what?
At Bronson’s 60 minute full band Brooklyn Bowl record release party for his new album The Long Lost, Saturday night, True Groove Record Label owner Tomas Doncker whispered, “Check out the guitarist” and then a little while later Tomas crossed the dancefloor to check him out closer. “That guy is psychically connected to Bronson, everything he plays is in support of the cause.” Robbie’s sound is gorgeous and unique, he sounds like a prog country metal amalgram; he seems to be using the vibrato like a major component of his sound and the echo-y sound is really powerful, it draws you into David’s warm, deep, and sometimes difficult songs.
Bronson has zero compromise in his songs or in his sound but the last time I saw him live he was a friendlier center of gravity and on Saturday night he had too much going on. First and foremost, if you are going to change keys that much, get a guitar tech. I saw Volcano Choir at Webster Hall last week and they claimed to have 16 guitars that needed retuning all through the set and they brough a guitar tech to handle the tuning. Who can afford a guitar tech? I don’t know but then figure out a key and keep to it on stage.
Is that cruel? I thought the set was excellent so it is cruel but only as cruel as David’s surprising decision to not close with “See You Later”.
OKay, done with caveats, this was a soaring beautiful set with two back up singers adding shading to his songs and Bronson’s two breakthough songs, “Life Is Long” and “Underneath The Glass” were the evenings highlights; neither of these songs are on The Long Lost Story, double album in segments and both of them have melodies a step beyond what we’ve heard from Bronson before. The set construction is really smart, from “Push” to “One Simple Myth”to “Underneath The Glass”, three songs as the evening rushes to its conclusion hit the outer stratosphere, the rhythm section is steady and all there, Bronson performs intricate and lovely solos and the keyboards and singing shade him through it. This is a deep thing and Bronson is a passionate vocalist and though his voice isn’t deep it is very pretty, he sounds a bit like Cat Stevens.
For an hour the band gave it everything they had and while they don’t yet have the intuition a road band does, they have an affection and a common goal and while I was hoping for, and would have been happy with The Long Lost from beginning to end, Bronson’s set gave it the glow of catalog and continuity, he went from the past to the future and it was an accumalated humanist and yet solipsistic vision of death and rebirth and Bronson played it with extreme sharing to his audience.
The audience, by the way, were excellent themselves. Though the place wasn’t packed, everybody who was there were seriously into it and the good feelings were plentiful. Bronson might want to pair down his sound a little according to Tomas, “He could do this with a rhythm section and the guitarist”. I agree he could but I can hear why he didn’t, the sound is really unique and I’ve tried for ages to describe it, it is like a 70s pro-rock placed underneath an early 1970s singer-songwriter and at Fonatana in February, the singer songwriter won out and on Saturday night the prog rock artist weirdo won out and on both nights the audience won out.
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