Skip to content

Tommy Keene At Bowery Electric, September 17th, 2015, Review

IMG_3884

Bowery Is Electric But Is Tommy Keene? November 2015

What happens when you are the best at what you do and what you do falls out of fashion, so you spend your life waiting for a future that never arrives? What happens when you are so good, you work on a level well  beyond your contemporaries, a level that is cult in name only, but rather is insistently, brilliantly and always perfect populism? If the future refuses to arrive and you find yourself at small if packed out clubs, does it make you angry? Or careless? Why write circles around the pop music communities if no one has the ears to hear it?

Or to contract all those questions into one: What happens if  you’re Tommy Keene? A singer songwriter  who towers over power pop with timeless melodies and songs (“I think my songs have been incredibly underutilized. It’s incredibly frustrating. I have to admit I would sell out in a second”), a forceful charismatic live performer, whose vocals go from a whisper to a scream and a guitarist who seems to flick out licks and finger picks em with  dexterity, and whose energy and sound is more like classic rock than anything else. What happens is, you run out of time. Tommy is like Charles Bronson at the end of “Once Upon A Time In The West” -a great gunslinger in a wild west that has become civilized.

Keene’s gig at Bowery Electric Thursday, in promotion of his fine new album Laugh In The Dark, was something of a bad day at the office. The start was moved up an hour, Tommy started by dropping his mic, spilled water over his amp, fell flat right on the stage floor… he just seemed out of sync. And while the set had some sterling performances, particularly towards the end where a spectacular “Places That Are Gone” was followed by a psychedelic jam on newbie “All Gone Away” and finally his epic Lou Reed cover “Kill Your Sons” which segued into the lost rock stars epitaph “Street Fighting Man”, it still felt rotely intense.

The same can’t be said of Dot Dash, a DC power pop quartet, who morph into a very hard rhythm based rock band on stage. With the bass, rhythm guitar and drums right at the top of the mix taking no prisoners and transforming their Mitch Easter produced new album’s pop songs into hard rock a mutation away from metal, they were absolutely unique. If I had bothered taking a look at their resume, “Singer/guitarist Terry Banks was in St. Christopher and the Saturday People before teaming up with bassist Hunter Bennett in acclaimed  indie-rock band Julie Ocean; guitarist Steve Hansgen played bass for hardcore legends Minor Threat and Government Issue, and then the mod group Modest Proposal; drummer Danny Ingram co-founded harDCore band Youth Brigade”  rather than just listening to Earthquakes And Tidal Waves, I might have been less confounded though no more appreciative. A terrific set.

“Two guitarists walk into a bar…” an audience member shouted.

“What happens after that…?” Tommy asked before nailing down another lick…

Tommy is such a pro, he isn’t thrown by anything but he seems distracted, still working things out or maybe just not in the mood..  A slow start spins its wheels till he fails to make short work of the glamourous and existentially mind blowing lick on “Last Of The Twilight Girls”, I had been waiting for that one, expecting a coming to terms with one of his (many, true) great songs somewhat botched on record. It demands the fiery guitar solos Tommy can and does provide,  but perhaps “Twilight Girls” hasn’t been in the repertoire long enough, and he adds nothing to the recorded version.Two songs later, Tommy gets into his groove, standing so close to the mic he hits it with his nose, that tender and tough voice which seems to be able to roar at full steam ahead without distorting or losing the melody (not the sound but the skill reminds me of Lennon) cutting through the early evening atmosphere,  and  then buckling at the legs for extra power and firing off one dextrous lick after another, first with his fingers and then changing to a riff and strumming very fast.

The 75 minute set is  bloody mindedly engaging, a little uninspired though he isn’t calling it in. Tommy’s rapport with the audience, who adore him, feels one sided. For a man standing so close to the fans he seems distant. Though Bowery Electric is a small venue, it isn’t an empty venue. The faithful showed, and it wasn’t all gray hairs, there were some 20 somethings, wow even some of that opposite sex (what do you call ’em?) and yet Madonna was warmer to her audience at MSG the night before.

Who cares?

Even off hand Keene is better than most singer songwriters, at any given moment he can dazzle you with his tight and smart band on point as one, and his constant inventiveness on every level, whether it be guitar on “Nowhere Drag”, a beautiful refrain on “Places That Are Gone”, or even on  his own inevitable epitaph, like Bronson at the train station, leaving Dodge, “but what can a poor boy do…?” breaks through the clutter in our brain and lifts us somewhere we weren’t.

A guitarist works into a bar and then what happens…

Grade: B+

Leave a Comment





Amazon_Smile_logo
LET-ME-HELP-LOGO

Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at smile.amazon.com

Cyborg Drummer/DJ DRMAGDN Headlining Montauk Music Fest

By admin | April 9, 2024 |

Major Label BMG Records Artist & Producer DRMAGDN Cyborg Drummer / DJ will be making his Montauk Music Fest debut this year in May. DRMAGDN will be the Official Host & MC of The Montauk Music Fest plus play headlining sets on Friday 5/17 and Saturday 5/18 from 10pm-12am at Gurney’s Montauk Resort (290 Old…

RED CARPET EVENT @ Chelsea Table & Stage 4/12/24 Featuring THE AMERICAN RELICS & DRMAGDN

By admin | March 25, 2024 |

On Friday April 12th, 2024 beginning at 6:30 pm ET  there will be a Red Carpet event pre-show sponsored by Tribeca Records at the trendy nightspot Chelsea Table and Stage located in the heart of Chelsea at 152 west 26th street (inside the Hilton Fashion Hotel) in NYC. The Red Carpet will be followed by…

Live Review: Composer Randy Edelman Live at Chelsea T&S “2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” 03/16/24 and Record Release in NYC

By admin | March 17, 2024 |

There was an infinite vitality of velvet green flowing deliciously through the air as Composer Randy Edelman presented his 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre at the trendy new nightspot Chelsea Table & Stage in the heart of NYC on March 16, 2024….. a vivacious close to the spirited Irish Parade. His music is the…

DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer/DJ Debuts @ Chelsea T&S With Retro 80’s Party & Red Carpet Event 4/12/24

By admin | February 29, 2024 |

BMG recording artist, producer and World renowned, Global Touring Electrifying Powerhouse, DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer and DJ will make his debut at the popular, trendy night spot Chelsea Table & Stage (located at 152 west 26th street inside the Hilton Hotel) on  Friday April 12, 2024 @ 9:00PM. DRMAGDN will be celebrating his high energy brand of Electronic Dance Music (EDM)…

Going Steady: New Singles 2-23-24- 2-29-24 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

dance pop, gooey confection

US Top Ten Albums Tracking 2-16-24 – 2-22-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

75K EAUs is abysmal

Our Friend Tony Orlando’s Farewell Tour

By admin | February 25, 2024 |

“I still hit the ball, I just can’t run the bases!!!”

Sneak Peaks: New Album releases 3-1-24 – 3-7-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

contenders for the best punk rock around

Child Bite, Lamb Of God, Pantera At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, February 22nd, 2024, Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

A three hours of hard rock, metal not metal, swift, loud, egoless pure metal

UK Top 10 Albums 2-23-24 – 2-29-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 24, 2024 |

worse than I remembered it being

Scroll To Top