Live @ (le) poisson rouge, Manhattan
September 27, 2011
OK, so it seems sort of silly to even write this, because, of course he can, but Geoff Barrow can really play the drums! The Portishead maestro, hanging out in New York City ahead of a probable fried-dough coma at Asbury Park for All Tomorrow’s Parties this weekend and a couple of highly anticipated shows in town with his main band next week, was only the drummer last night (and not just standing behind a indeterminate noise box or digging records out of a crate, as I pictured in teenage Portishead fever dreams). Anika, the European chanteuse whose excellent post-punk record he produced last year, sauntered out only after he and his other other band Beak> had already started playing. Backlit in a black dress, radiantly morose, she was picture perfect for the decaying post-punk aesthetic conjured by Barrow and co. Try as you might, you'll never find a better bummer.
For those who slept on her record, which, on the evidence of a room only semi-full for her North American debut is almost everybody, Anika mainly performs well-chosen covers of 60s pop standards, run through Beak>’s harsh filter—perverted by punk, post-punk, dub. They started with “Terry” a sugary 1964 pop hit that she made sound like the last days of the Weimar Republic. Skeeter Davis’ “End of the World”, sung over blistering psychedelic scrapes, sounded appropriately apocalyptic for once. At stage front left, in a weird makeshift throne, bassist Billy Fuller held it all together, never once took to his feet. Doing a dub cover of folk protest song “Masters of War” demands a kicking low-end, and Fuller was just slaughtering bass lines all night. Anika is a journalist and DJ most of the time (her number of total shows is still in the single digits), and her song selection was as spot-on as that day job would lead you to hope. Among tragic 60s pop tracks you could have predicted (“He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)”, naturally) came a cover of The Chromatics’ recent disco gem “In the City”. Except, they played it like a punked-up death lurch. Whoa!
A pretty girl on stage doing covers, forever unsmiling through a flat, Teutonic, Nico-in-winter affect, sounds kind of artistically shallow on paper, I’ll admit. But this girl, with these players? A cabaret on the brink of collapse. Total effing magic.