[ed. note: Gothamist is most likely, more often than not, standing next to you at one of the many shows happening in the city on any given week. We are everywhere. Now we aim to tell you about our experiences - the good, the bad and the out of tune - right here in our new review section headed up by Central Village's Jeff Baum.]
Gothamist tries to avoid the Roseland Ballroom at all costs when going to see live music. The space is large and impersonal, the acoustics are lousy, and the crowd is usually more concerned with procuring another light beer or screaming at their boyfriend than listening to the actual music on stage. All that being said, last night's triple bill of The Helio Sequence, Secret Machines, and Kings of Leon was too good for us to pass up, and was a worthy exception to our no Roseland rule. We trekked up through Times Square to the midtown venue for what we hoped would be good music and, at the very least, a tolerable concert experience.
The Helio Sequence was up first. The Portland drum + guitar duo create catchy music that appropriately falls right between the modern-country rock and the spacey atmospheria of the two headliners. They put on a solid show and were able to fill what was likely one of the larger venues they've played with a full, satisfying sound. They ended their set with the oft-covered Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows," and the sparse crowd filing into the hall throughout their set seemed impressed by what they heard. We were too.
Next up were the Secret Machines, who, in our experience, have never failed to put on a dazzling live set. The band is heavily backlit by an impressive array of mechanical lights that strobe and dart around, perfectly complimenting the pseudopsychedelic sound the Brooklyn trio has come to master. While their 75 minute set seemed to drag at times, they were always able to bring it back together when it mattered, nailing their hits, as well as an absolutely breathtaking cover of Bob Dylan's "Girl from North Country"
The Kings of Leon came on last. While it was our understanding that this was supposed to be a double headlining bill, almost everybody was there to see the Kings. As obnoxious as the people at Roseland can sometimes be, we genuinely appreciated the enthusiastic response the crowd gave these guys. It's rare to go see a band in New York with an audience that so openly enjoys the music being played. There was lots of drunken dancing, clapping and singing along, which might usually annoy us, but last night it just felt appropriate. The band blew through nearly every song they've got, and the sea of baseball caps and Livestrong bracelets went nuts at the opening chords of each one. A very strong set overall.
While we don't see ourselves going back anytime soon, we were surprised that the club seemed smaller than we last remembered, and felt the carpeted floor was a nice touch. What really matters, of course, is quality of the music being played on stage, and all three bands lived up to our expectations and made for an enjoyable night.