Words by: Thomas Reilly | Images by: Phrazz
The Slip :: 06.26.09 :: Bowery Ballroom :: New York, NY
Last Friday night in Manhattan's Lower East Side, brothers Brad and Andrew Barr and Marc Friedman played as The Slip for their first and only New York show in over two years. The fan-filled Bowery Ballroom emanated with the spirit of a family reunion. Cries of, "It's good to see you!" and "Welcome back!" were coming from on stage and off. Drawing heavily from 2006's Eisenhower, the jazz trio turned indie-rock powerhouse were in top form despite the touring hiatus. The nearly three hour show featured new material, crowd surfing, a special guest, the obligatory Michael Jackson tribute and living proof that The Slip is back in action.
Though they haven't performed under The Slip moniker since 2007 (save for two shows at High Sierra and a one-off around NYE in Boston), the boys have been keeping plenty busy. They expanded to a quartet (with singer-songwriter Nathan Moore) to tour and record as Surprise Me Mr. Davis, and served as the backing band for the young singer Sonya Kitchell. But only as The Slip do they truly bring out the musical magic that has kept fans coming back for more than a decade (the fire started burning with 1997's From The Gecko).
Sporting a quickly discarded white glove, Brad Barr took the stage with his bandmates just after 10:30 p.m. Bassist Marc Friedman started the night on guitar and can apparently add guitarist to his list of credits in the band. For several of Eisenhower's more complex tunes bass duties went to a pre-programmed sampler while Friedman proved he can rock as hard as Barr on a six-string. Drummer Andrew Barr's collection of unusual percussion instruments wasn't hauled on stage in vain, so armed with shakers, bells, a whirling plastic tube and a well-rosined bow he brought out funky rhythms and ethereal tones from just about everything he had within arm's reach.
After an up-beat blues rock opener the boys showed their chops on the band's Guitar Hero bonus track "Even Rats." Brad's performance would certainly have scored pretty high if he'd been playing the video game version of their heavy hitting rock tune. Definitely a fan favorite, the smiles in the room were wide while watching Brad's spastic fingers run at full speed, always finding the right notes. Andrew's drumming is infinitely impressive and he seemed as pumped as the rest of us that he was playing with his brother again, which came through with his furious Keith Moon style drumming, a highlight of this performance.
| Brad Barr :: 06.26.09 :: NYC|
The funky start-stop instrumental "Get Me With Fuji" was next with Brad taking his first solo of the night, a Scofield sounding whirlwind of dirty arpeggios and crunchy chords; Brad's style has continued to develop and improve. After a slower acoustic tune and comments on the lightning storm over the Brooklyn Bridge earlier in the night, the audience got reassurance that the band is back and "have been writing a lot," with the debut of a new tune. The group's songwriting has evolved impressively over the years and unfamiliar ears may have a hard time believing the jazz material of their early days came from the same band that wrote this Coldplay meets Ringo rock tune full of hard hits and wailing blues guitar.
Delving back into Eisenhower, the slower "Suffocation Keep" came next, followed by crowd favorite "Airplane/Primitive." This one shot the energy level right to the top and created the closest thing to a mosh-pit as you will ever find at a Slip show. Brad brought out a small cassette player and fed it right into his guitar pickups for "First Panda in Space," while his brother whirled a flexible plastic tube around, generating some cool howling feedback.
As a lead singer Brad Barr is often flat on stage but he found his sweet spot during the awesome "Paper Birds." His affinity for Dylan comes out in "Birds," where he sings, "I know my song well before it leaves my lip." Unfortunately, as well as he may know them, his voice starts to give out as soon as he warms up all the way. Still only about 24 hours from confirmation of the early death of the King of Pop at the time, the band offered a touching tribute with an instrumental version of Jackson's "Man In the Mirror," with the audience adding enthusiastic vocals.
Taking a break from the newer songs the classic "Yellow Medicine" made an appearance with Brad busting out his gypsy-string technique and some tribal drumming from Andrew. The strength of the musical connection between the two brothers was evident throughout the night with big smiles and obvious communication fostering some great improvising with Friedman holding down the low end without fail. They closed out their set with two more Eisenhower tracks, "The Soft Machine" and the wonderfully emotive "If One of Us Should Fall" featuring a goofy-grinned Marco Benevento joining the band on accordion. An awesome addition to their musical family, members of The Slip and Benevento have been collaborating regularly over the past few years. Benevento's creativity and skill on the keyboard is so in line with The Slip's style that one almost wishes they would sub out Nathan Moore and start touring around as Surprise Me Mr. Marco.
| A. Barr & Benevento :: 06.26.09 :: NYC|
As they left the stage the audience proved they were a musical bunch as well. The applause filtered down to a nicely syncopated clapping-jam to get the band back on stage. Saying it was one of the first songs they wrote as a band, The Slip came back and delivered the first of two encore gems: "The Weight of Solomon." Originally an up-beat jazz ballad, the song has been worked into more of an alt rock tune with lots of down-strummed guitars replacing the warm jazz keyboard part. After a night of going hard Brad's voice was truly shot and rather than stretch for notes he couldn't hit he just let the audience take over for some of the lyrics. Finally, the most requested song of the night, "Children of December," ended the show and saw the band truly give it everything they had. Brad gave himself entirely to the crowd, falling back into their waiting hands he was held aloft, still playing his guitar as he was passed around the crowd on his back.
There was nothing but trust and love between the band and their fans this night and one hopes that after their brief return to the stage The Slip will continue their ascent as one of the most creative and talented bands around. Seeing how far they have come only makes one wonder just how much further they will go.
The Slip currently have only two shows scheduled, both of which take place this weekend at California's High Sierra Music Festival.
| Brad Barr - The Slip :: 06.26.09 :: NYC|
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