Words by: Greg Gargiulo | Images from: myspace.com/tndmusic
The New Deal :: 02.18.09 :: Revolution Hall :: Troy, NY
Forget the stethoscope. If you truly want to test if someone's heart is circulating blood through the rest of their body, no medical tools are required. Just take them to a New Deal show. If you don't see him/her boogie, shake, shred or convulse into dance moves at least once throughout the music's duration - barring any physical incapacitations - you've got your answer: They're walking dead.
While knowledge of the movement-inducing rhythms, seamless flow, supernova-like peaks and general distinctiveness of "The New Deal sound" is leaps from the underground secret it once was in their early career, it's certainly a welcomed refresher to catch them at this current stage. The climate surrounding the Toronto-based trio has been shifting significantly in recent years. Bassist Dan Kurtz has been spending increasing amounts of time pursuing his founding role in the synth/retro pop project Dragonette. Keyboardist Jamie Shields and drummer Darren Shearer formed The Join which features alternating bassists from around the community, and have also created the hybrid, anything-goes outfit Omega Moos with Ryan Stasik and Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey's McGee. In effect, the aggressive touring schedule that defined them in years past has been traded for a few short tours, along with some intermittent festival and event appearances, while they balance it out with their exterior endeavors. By making it a bit more rare of an opportunity to see The New Deal live these days, they've created a more exciting atmosphere with fans anticipating shows with a far greater intensity.
Kicking off a 13-nighter spanning most of the Northeast, they warmed up a snowy Upstate New York crowd at Troy's Revolution Hall, a feat the Canucks are no strangers to after ten years of steady Stateside touring. Wasting little time getting the gears moving, the first jam of the night sent bodies flailing almost before bearings could even be caught, and within minutes the first of numerous eruptions was underway. Singling out each individual component of the whole, building on it, altering it, shining and refining it, the next stage is ALWAYS more emphatic, always stronger than the previous one with these guys. On top of that, their building blocks always have a distinct purpose and direction, whether they know exactly what it is at the time or need to further navigate to discover it. After the first jam leveled off, the next one rose back to glory with a delectable array of shimmering, celestial sounds that rolled and tumbled as the tempo picked up with each subsequent measure.
"Let's make this one memorable, shall we?" Shearer prompted at the first proper, albeit short-lived, breather, nearly 40 minutes into the set. What transpired next could've easily reserved a permanent cove in the memory banks of every mind present. First, a slightly downtempo "The Ray Parker Suite: Parts I & II" fed into a sweaty, thick, sailing reggae-infused jam, heavy on Kurtz's bass, Shields' orchestral keys and the throaty ragga vocals that moved hips. Here, as was the case throughout every moment of the show, their transitions between jams and songs were fluent and unnoticeable, reaching the desirable speeds and plateaus in the band's DNA. Another take-it-easy-while-it-grows jam followed, got funkified and then dripped into the intro of one of their most magnificent crowd-satisfiers, heating up the atmosphere by an incalculable degree while doing so. When "VL Tone," which sounds like the theme song to some kind of awesomely cheesy '80s TV show about robots that become self-aware, fully opened up, every creature stirred or spun or jumped or all of the above. "VL" had a tangible electrical current that traveled from the speakers, through the dance floor, and, with each surging "bah-dum-dum-chaah" blast, up through the spine, inciting a veritable frenzy before heading into set break.
|The New Deal|
The jam leading into "Glide" had a distinctively cosmic overtone to it, and Shields' epic riff on keys paved the way for the next movement as it evolved subtly after the breakdown, which almost came to a complete halt. Teasing crash cymbals and the slow onset of the bass had us feasting on anticipation, and then, kerplunk! The structure of "Glide" moved just as the title implies, in a smooth, omni-rotational, uninterrupted flow, absorbing the bumps and jolts along the way as more fuel for the cruise. Stripped down to its bare bones for a short interim, beefed up and reenergized, its return to prominence was just a tad sweeter than the first time, though equally as smooth. "Back to the Middle" brought things back to chaotic once again, like a dance club housed in the confines of a dirty steel factory, complete with random machines and pistons shooting off from every direction and yet fitting perfectly into sequence.
Thought there'd been shouts for it all night, this band has rarely played to expectations, which made the "Technobeam" encore all the more rewarding. It wasn't long before the still-hungry crowd got to moving for the final transmission as it constructed itself around the piercing chime of keys and grounding bass work, then took a dip into the nether regions. Getting eerie for just the right amount of time, the reprise bounced back once more, crystalline as ever, then accelerated gradually up to the very last note with momentum to carry one into body-rockin' bedlam.
|The New Deal|
Their selective appearances today only make it a more gratifying treat that you may have to wait a bit longer or travel a bit further to enjoy. But, the explosive energy, active, positive environment and unequaled distinction of sound that characterize The New Deal are elements that have far from diminished. They are now, as they always have been and will continue to be, not only a musical stethoscope, but a defibrillator as well, reviving, shocking and giving life to their listeners.
The New Deal tour dates available here.
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