Dark Was the Night at Radio City Music Hall…lots of video
Dark Was the Night at Radio City Music Hall last night (5/3) was probably the best $38 I’ve spent. In honor of the excellent compilation they put together, several of the artists that contributed to Red Hot’s AIDS awareness project, Dark Was the Night, came to Radio City Music Hall to put on a benefit concert that was not to be missed. The Dirty Projectors, My Brightest Diamond, The National, David Byrne, Dave Sitek, Bon Iver, Feist and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. The Dirty Projectors kicked things off with a 4-song set that got better as it went along. David Byrne came out to join the band on the final numbers which they had written together: “Ambulance” which did not appear on the comp, and “Knotty Pine” which did.
They were followed by My Brightest Diamond who performed their version of “Feelin’ Good” (which also appeared on the compilation). Shara Worden from MBD would guest on vocals several more times during the night, each time complementing songs beautifully.
The National, the group largely responsible for curating the album and the show, were next and featured Justin Vernon from Bon Iver as part of their band that at times grew as large as 16 pieces. They opened their set with “Slow Show” from their critically acclaimed ’07 release “Boxer.” Next was “England”, a new, stunningly beautiful song which was one of the highlights of the entire night. They followed with “So Far Around the Bend” from Dark Was the Night and ended with Shara Worden guesting on vocals for another new song called “Vanderlow Crybaby” (?), a strong tune with that has me eagerly anticipating their next album.
Dave Sitek was next with a 14-piece band plus a 10-piece handclap chorus performing “With a Girl Like You” from Dark Was the Night.
David Byrne then returned to the stage led by a 5-piece marching drum section playing the Cole Porter tune “Don’t Fence Me In” that he recorded for the first ever Red Hot compilation Red Hot + Blue. It would be the first of three songs that he had never before performed live…and it was excellent. His mini-set got even better with a Caetono Veloso song, “É Preciso Perdoar” from a later Red Hot compilation called Red Hot + Rio. He closed the first set by inviting Leslie Feist to join him on vocals for the song he recorded for Red Hot + Rio called “Waters of March.” Their voices played together perfectly and I felt like a Plant/Krauss type album should be in order.
Intermission…the review and more video continues after the jump…
Bon Iver opened the second set with “Brackett, WI”, their contribution to the compilation and followed with one of my favorite songs from last year, “Blood Bank” from their latest EP release of the same title. This was a huge rock number, heavier than the album version, that filled the giant room with booming drums and a wailing guitar solo from band leader Justin Vernon. It was my first time seeing the band and with this song, my expectations were blown away…definitely my favorite song of the night. The National then joined Vernon for “Big Red Machine” a song they collaborated on for the compilation. To close their set, Shara Worden appeared to guest on vocals for “Flume”, a song from Bon Iver’s debut LP For Emma, Fovever Ago. It amounted to another classic duet, with both Vernon and Worden shining.
Leslie Feist stripped things down for her solo set with the strongest song being “Someday Baby” a song made famous by Muddy Waters, The Allman Brothers Band and Bob Dylan.
Roaring with energy, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings took the stage to close the set. The Dap-Kings showed that they are the tightest band in the biz backing Jones one one showstopper after another. Jones, the Riker’s Island correction officer turned vintage soul singer wailed on the mic and strutted her signature moves all over the stage. She stopped the band after they started their second song and proclaimed, “I need something faster, something that will get my blood pumpin’.” The band obliged with a new song, “When I Come Home.” She then tipped her cap to the man with she she shares Augusta, GA as a hometown, James Brown. In honor of his birthday she demonstrated four of his classic struts, the Boogaloo, the Camel Walk, Tighten Up and the Pony. The crowd rose to their feet for the first time all night as they closed with “100 Days, 100 Nights” from their album of the same name.
All of the artists, save Jones, returned to the stage to tip their cap to another legendary birthday boy, Pete Seeger, who’s 90th birthday was being celebrated around the corner at Madison Square Garden. They began singing “This Land is Your Land” en masse until Jones swaggered back across the stage and put a stop to it. She wanted to do it with soul and cued up the Dap-Kings to lead the way. She handled vocals and worked the crowd while the rest of the cast sang backup and took notes on how to steal a show.