Photos by Dawn Hamilton
The passing of Prince weighed heavy in the atmosphere Friday night at the Phoenix as it did with this reviewer and probably this review. The late icon’s hits played loud before New York’s Parquet Courts hit the stage eliminating any potential elephant in the room situation regarding Prince. It practically forced the conversation.
The four piece were in town promoting their recent critically acclaimed fifth album, Human Performance. I hadn’t heard the album going into the evening but picked it up as their frantic version of The Fall has made me a fan of the previous efforts. Never saw them before and illness would prevent me seeing them when they hit town with Protomartyr.
The venue was undersold, only about two thirds full which may have worked against the band as it gave the crowd room to stretch out in the cavernous space and recall their personal purple stories. The band walked on with and to little fanfare and delivered a deliciously loud and sloppy “Sunbathing Animal”, the title track from their “breakthrough” 2014 album.
Diving into the new album immediate following, “Dust” continued the frantic vibe, but surprisingly Parquet Courts live are more of an extended beast, their short concise songs given some extra legs and heft to them giving them more time to infect.
But something just wasn’t connecting and fault would not lie at the feet of the band who offered a generous portion of the new album, a handful from Sunbathing Animal on top of an additional couple of handfuls of songs delivered like a train ready to go off the rails.
Nor would blame lie at the feet of some in the crowd who clearly tapped into what was going on and some freaky dancing ensued. One person tried to crowd-surf but crowd-sank.
Then I had thought it was me more impacted by Prince’s passing and recalling his electrifying performances and just not in the moment. But when the band said that we were a “good crowd for a Tuesday night” I knew I wasn’t alone. Someone shouted that Prince died and thank goodness he called out the obvious, but clearly his death was having an impact on the evening.
The band would dedicate a song to the purple one but that did little to propel the energy. Despite a furious “Stoned and Starving” and other popular highlights from Sunbathing Animal including “Dear Ramona” and “Black and White” there was just little unification between band and crowd.
So while there were many clearly thrilled and in their element for roughly 90 minutes, there was the divide with many, mostly the older folk in attendance, with other things on their mind and it was felt. Unfortunate mostly due to the timing, here’s hoping we get a rematch soon.