moe., Radio City Music Hall, NYC- 12/31
As the house lights dimmed, the stage curtain at Radio City Music Hall hiked up and paused for a teasing minute, like some teenage skirt, before slipping entirely away, and moe. launched into “Recreational Chemistry”- the whole room lit up with peach colored champagne bubble lights. Those lights were just the first strokes of a visual array that would be every bit as much a part of the evening’s festivities as the music.
The low-end was deep and heavy, as Jim Loughlin stalking around his raised percussion grotto on second bass while the jam turned to a thick, purpley goo and dropped into “Blue Jeans Pizza.” The song was met with big cheers, and it stretched out bit before dropping back into the “Rec. Jam” without a moment’s hesitation. It quickly built to a wicked blaze- spaz strobe lights flashing with guitarist Al Schnier out in front of the stage, slashing and whipping like a rock star. And then the song really took off. When it finally finished, after bassist Rob Derhak and Loughlin locked into a cool mini duet, thirty minutes had passed and the band left the stage- a short set to be sure, but a strong opening taste to whet appetites for what was still to come.
The second set opened with obligatory “New York City”- fun despite the predictability- followed by a great version of “Not Coming Down.” Here the lights shot furiously across the stage and ceiling like something out of a Slavic clown spectacle in Union Square, and Al was all bent over backwards, emphatically belting out the final chorus. He paused for just a second, doing his best Les Claypool with a sharp sideways glance at the rest of the band, and they soared into the long, perfect groove of “Wormwood”- we were in it by then, that second set place where the walls melt away and music is everything. The instrumental drew to a close with sweet, rumbley notes from Rob and opened on a spinning, dancey “Wind It Up”.
“Meet me on New Year’s Eve. Meet in Times Square. Meet me where the band is square, and we’ll give the clock another wind.”
The set closed with Al on acoustic for “So Long”, painted golden hues. His vocals were outstanding once again, but the real action began as the quintet sunk into the darkest cavernous jam, the borders sketched out with Chuck Garvey’s thick, twisted leads on guitar, drummer Vinnie Amico’s jungle thump and Loughlin’s sharp conga snaps. “Rebubula” was sneaking into the mix, swelling up into a jam, and the sounds all mashed together into an intimidating wall of sound, colored in glaring white on the stage. The crowd was howling and stomping with the heavy beat on stage, and the band eased down into “Rebubula” itself. Rob accompanied himself through the verses with phat bass lines and pointed at the horizon for the jam. The music drifted down into low places, the band getting a little tangled in the spacier regions but eventually creating an awesome quiet- one shattered to great effect for the climax of the song.
Just before the witching hour, the group returned, tuning and buzzing for a bit before stalking into “Lazarus.” Lighting czar and longtime jambands.com staffer, Jeff Waful bent beams of white light across the room for just a moment when the band stopped and Rob began the countdown. At the stroke of midnight streamers shot across the venue, hanging in mid air before giving way to balloons and well wishes. The debut of “Raise a Glass” was inglorious to say the least, the audience not really understanding its role, or just not cooperating, but it was clear people will be clapping and stomping along soon enough- it’s a catchy toast.
Rather than returning to the aborted “Lazarus,” moe. turned to “Brent Black”. Early on in the jam, Chuck held this one note while the lights spun and throbbed- Waful was using the whole room as the canvas and kept drawing my eyes up and away from the stage to view to the kaleidoscope that streaked across the walls and concentric ridges of the venue. The music grew aggressive and tweaky- face stealing- and dropped, like that opening jam three hours earlier, back into “Lazarus.” And that fan favorite’s resurrection was met with cheers and fists a-pumping. This time it was Al who held out a single note before shredding the jam, falling to his knees down at the stage lip. The heavy beat gave way to a long, textured drumz segment followed by Rob’s return for a slap-fest over Vinnie’s kit work. When the rest of the band returned, the music turned red, and evil, frantically racing to the finale.
For a change of pace, a ballad: “This and That”- a real pretty piece, a perfect pause. Then Chuck started strumming out a little idea, noodling, while Rob switched basses, and they all hopped into “Spine of a Dog.” As the first passage began to mature, thick smoke filled the stage from the flanks. It had been leaking out here and there all night, but now it grew dense, and Chuck and Al stepped into it in turns, each disappearing for part of his solo. Somewhere late in the tune, that jungle beat that had threaded its way through the whole night resurfaced, cooled, quieted, rumbled up again and was finally realized in “Plane Crash”- a killer close to the show, all washed over in swirling calliopes of color.
The whole show was constructed from thirty minute (roughly speaking) segments of great music, any one of which could count the best of the night, depending on personal taste. The encore was no different. When U2’s “New Year’s Day” began, a slow cheer rose, and the band was just killed it- they even stacked the guitars, Chuck tearing out those rhythm riffs while Al soloed over him.
“Oil’s the reason for the wars we wage.”
They opened the end a little, taking the tune for a ride, Rob nailing a few sweet notes just before the group muscled into “George.” As the middle passage began, dozens of beams of white light suddenly sparred up to a disco ball nestled at the apex of the venue- and the whole ceiling danced. Huge shadow petals blossomed just in front of the ball while the lights turned from white to an amazingly vivid rainbow, constantly spinning. The whole room uttered a collective gasp, and the band crushed the groove. People everywhere were slouching back in those plush, crimson seats to gaze up at the spectacle – it truly was a stunning moment, a gorgeous synthesis of sight and sound, the perfect way to end the night and start the year.