I had only heard of Blackfield shortly before their recent CD “Blackfield II” and was intrigued about the project that featured Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Israeli Alternatiive superstar Aviv Geffen. New York City had been hit by a terrible snowstorm that day but that didn’t stop the crowd from assembling at the Bowery Ballroom with my associate Peter Parrella who would offer up his thoughts on the night. I tried my best to capture some moments in photos and you can see more by clicking their logo below. It will bring you to the main PiercingMetal.com site where the article resides. If it makes you sad for not attending, don’t sorry as the group was filming a DVD of the show that night for all to eventually enjoy.
Venue: The Bowery Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Jordan Rudess
Label: Atlantic Records
Blackfield’s performance at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom on March 16, 2007 was a crowd pleaser on so many levels that it’s hard to enumerate. Those who braved the sting of a late season sleet storm to hear this sold out show were treated not only to a tight, majestic performance by the headliners but also to a marvelous solo set by current Dream Theater and former Dregs keyboardist Jordan Rudess.
To begin the evening Rudess quietly took center stage, sat at his massive master keyboard (reportedly driving his piano sounds from “Ivory” software via his MacBook Pro), and proceeded to roll out streams of arpeggios from which emerged the melodic hallmarks of some of the most revered progressive bands of the previous few decades. His beautifully crafted suites and re-imaginings of classic King Crimson, Yes and Genesis tunes enthralled the audience peppered with Dream Theater fans. The crowd responded with gasps of appreciative glee as they recognized bits of “Court of the Crimson King”, “Carpet Crawlers”, “Supper’s Ready” or “And You and I”, that rose out of the waves of ornate piano work Rudess laid down. After the second piece he half jokingly asked “Do you recognize any of this/If so, feel free to sing along”, but few ventured to break the magic of the performance by vocalizing.
The core collaborators of Blackfield are British “Man of 1000 Projects” Steven Wilson and Israeli singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen. As opposed to their earlier touring incarnation, which was essentially Wilson and Geffen sometimes aided by Rudess, this stage version presents a full blown rock band in every sense. Blackfield took the stage to the thundering drumbeat of “Once”, the first track on their newest release (Blackfield II), which set the tone for the rest of the evening. The nineteen song set presented a smart mix of the best of the band’s two CD’s. Wilson’s cover of Alanis Morrisette’s “Thank You” was the only non-Blackfield tune and was presented in duet after Aviv’s solo piano spotlight on “Glow”. Song arrangements followed those of the studio versions closely, with little additional stretching out or jamming, but the live rhythm section made all the difference by turning even some of the quieter recorded tunes into barn-burners.
Wilson, wielding his Paul Reed Smith electric guitar and Badcat amp combo, poured out distorted power chords and slippery melodic leads using what looked like a copper bracelet as a slide. Geffen contrasted Wilson’s relaxed bare feet, jeans and T-shirt attire with a sharp dark suit, tie, and slicked hair; a look pushed over the top with enough silver sparkle eye make-up to give Ziggy Stardust a coronary. He held down the acoustic rhythm guitar parts and occasionally strapped on a Rickenbacker electric. The voices of the two front men blend perfectly on stage, they are an exceptional vocal duo, and were ably aided by Bassist Seffy Efrati and Keyboardist Eran Mittelman, who added harmonies approximating the lush vocal pads of the albums.
Considering how much better Blackfield’s songs fare live, it’s great to know that this show was captured for future DVD release by the same production team that created Porcupine Tree’s exceptional “Arriving Somewhere, But Not Here” DVD last year.
They ended the set appropriately with “It’s the End of the World” and returned for a three song encore that included “Hello”, a reprise of opening number “Once” with drummer Tomer Z attacking it’s rhythms even more brutally, and “Cloudy Now”, Aviv’s lament for peace translated from Hebrew to English by Steven. As the night ended the band led their enraptured audience in singing “Cloudy Now’s” refrain “We are a fucked up generation, it’s cloudy now” as if they were at a Rage Against the Machine concert.
It was a pleasure and a treasure to see Blackfield present such a polished and powerful set. Though they may be considered a “side car” to its members main projects by some, this band is truly a force to be reckoned with in it’s own right. It will be interesting to see how SW juggles the impending Porcupine Tree album and tour with the inevitable success of Blackfield. Sounds like a non-stop world tour in the offing for him.
2. Miss You
5. The Hole in Me
6. 1000 People
9. Thank You
12. This Killer
13. Open Mind
14. My gift of silence
15. Where is My Love
16. End of the World
17. Hello – encore
18. Once (slight return) – encore
19. Cloudy Now – encore