The New Deal, B.B. King’s, NYC- 10/31
Halloween is always a special occasion in New York City. Most venues are
usually packed with quality talent (I gave serious consideration to seeing
The Foo Fighters), forcing even the most ardent fan of a particular band to
think twice when passing on the myriad of other possibilities. Last year,
Medeski, Martin and Wood played a spectacular show here, a show that remains
in my cd changer to this day. However, on this date, my choice was for The
New Deal at BB Kings, simply because Halloween is an excuse to party, and
there is no better band to party with, than The New Deal.
BB Kings has quickly vaulted itself into the upper echelon of venues in this
great city, simply because they consistently book A-List talent night in and
night out. Looking at the line up at BB Kings for any month, one cannot
help but be overwhelmed by the bands that play on any given day.
Unfortunately, BB Kings also tends to overprice its tickets, forcing fans to
pick and choose, or miss their favorite musicians all together (as was the
case with the recent shows by Gregg Allman with Joe Bonnamassa, which I
opted to skip due to the slightly high price tag of $40). Therefore,
playing BB Kings on Halloween is no small accomplishment for a band.
However, The New Deal were more than up to the task, as usual, as they
played a lengthy show with many noteworthy moments.
BB Kings was pretty packed on this night, but not quite sold out as there
was room towards the back by the bar. The crowd was exactly what you would
expect on this night, with an overwhelming majority of the fans dressed up,
ranging from Draculas to Pimps to the now-ubiquitous "Disco Stu" outfit.
However, there were still many who were "too-cool" to dress up, myself
included, and those people couldn’t help but feel left out, even if only
slightly. As well, garnering much of the attention by the front-left of the
stage was "Bernie", the evil clown that many Northeast Disco Biscuits fans
have become accustomed to seeing at those shows.
The New Deal are a band in a state of "experimentation," sort of. They are
currently working on recording the follow up to 2001’s self titled album. And as such, they are, and have been, working out some
of the material live, which is the best way to get a handle on what works
and what doesn’t. On this night, we were treated to several of the newer
songs, as well as some "older" favorites. The first set closer, and as of
yet unnamed song, features some unusually dark and heavy key work by Jamie
Shields. The song, while lacking a name, certainly does not lack energy.
I’ve seen the song at least two other times, and from what I can see, the
main verse of the song almost invariably forces both Dan Kurtz( bass) and
Jaime to almost "head-bang", while at the same time, forcing the crowd into
dance overload. The song seems to work best as a set closer as even the
most tired attendee digs a little deeper in order to dance, however it works
equally well as a set opener, setting the tone for the remainder of that
The band opened the second set with a lengthy version of Michael Jackson’s
"Thriller", which one would think would be played by more bands than it has.
Dan Kurtz did not play the standard bassline, so it took the crowd a little
longer to figure out exactly what song it was, even if Jamie was wailing
away on the lead line. Each time I’ve seen the band, they’ve played some
type of 80s song, the best easily being Bon Jovi’s "You Give Love A Bad
Name" that almost blew the roof off the Wetlands two years ago. But
"Thriller", for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the
permeation of the song’s lead vocal line through almost every other song
played that set, leapfrogged into the very top of that list. A second newer
song, entitled "Home Wrecker", which was played about mid-way through the
second set, is a perfect example of what the band is trying to do. The song
starts off slower that most New Deal songs, showcasing the both the band’s
patience, and their desire to evolve into something more than what they’ve
been, not that they’ve been doing anything wrong. It appears that they’ve
made a conscious decision to slow things down, to expand their sound and
display a depth to their songs not always seen by many fans. "Home
Wrecker", the few times I’ve seen it live, has often elicited some of the
loudest ovations from the crowd, as it does speed up to allow for some
serious dancing. And when the song gets going…..watch out.
The band eventually made its way into fan favorite "Deep Sun", off their one
existing studio album. I’ve seen "Deep Sun" played several times in several
different spots, but on this night, it was the perfect show closer. After
playing the newer material for an audience that for the most part, hasn’t
heard any of it, closing with as familiar a New Deal tune as their is was
perfect and sent everyone home at 2:15 in the morning very, very pleased
with the show they’d seen, especially considering the level of the other
acts in the city.
With the release of the double live album Live at the Bowery Ballroom, and
the upcoming studio album, the band seems to really be making an effort to
expand and to grow, both in size and in sound. And if "Home Wrecker" and
"Unnamed" are any indication, the band is well on its way.