Scene: We arrived a couple of minutes after nine and the venue was packed. The Gothic is a beautiful converted movie house with a great downstairs area consisting of a standing room only floor area in front of the stage that fades back into multiple levels (which for some reason they insist on filling with chairs) that eventually reach a bar at the rear of the house. There is also a large wrap around balcony that affords good viewing angles and large amounts of seating though the bass seems to get lost up there a bit.
The average age was probably about 27 or so with an eclectic variety of people in attendance but there was an edge in the air. Like you might imagine at a frat party. People were almost completely unwilling to let you pass by them in the tightly packed crowd and I witnessed a near fist fight in front of us. Granted the testosterone and alcohol drenched fist pumping antics, hi-fiving and general disregard for personal space of group in front of us deserved a swift kick to the head I couldn’t believe it was happening at a Zero 7 show. I saw them 2 years ago in Boulder at the Fox and it was an extremely laid back crowd. Oh how the Garden State soundtrack has changed this fanbase. For the worst.
Opener: Jose Gonzalez. I recently received his CD in the mail and while I was impressed with the sound he coaxes out of his guitar’s nylon strings, I had trouble making out the lyrics even with the volume way up. I had the same problem seeing him live. The din of the crowd chatter was almost unbearable and the sound was a bit loud and instead of the warmth that one would expect from a solo singer with a nylon string guitar it had a hot edge to it. During the 5 or 6 songs that he sang with Zero 7 I didn’t have the same problem with the sound and enjoyed him much more.
I am not familiar with many of Gonzalez’s songs but he did close out his set with a Massive Attack cover, “Teardrop,” from their 1998 album Mezzanine.
While there were fans that received Gonzalez warmly, it was clear that the majority of the crowd was waiting for Zero 7 to take the stage and didn’t really want to stop their conversations until they came on.
Zero 7: Last time I saw Zero 7 was a little more than two years ago and I have to say that this didn’t seem like the same band. I realize they have a rotating cast of singers but the sound seems to have changed. I was a fan of their smooth electronic funk sound and while elements of that showed through, I wasn’t impressed with the new direction the band seems to be taking. I also remember loving the different singers that were touring with them last time and that seems to have been left out on this tour as well. Instead of showcasing powerful soulful vocals, Sia fronted the band for much of the set. While I own her solo album and think she has a decent voice, I really couldn’t get into it in the live setting. Her bouncy and overly energetic girlish attitude didn’t fit with the music she was singing and again I thought that her voice was pushed to loud and sounded edgy and hot.
The band did seem to hit their stride when Jose Gonzalez joined them. Their collaborations on the new Zero 7 album The Garden are some of the best on the disc and his vocals and demeanor seemed to fit the band much better than Sia in the live setting. Gonzalez lent his vocals to “Futures,” “Today,” “Left Behind” and the set closing version of his own “Crosses.”
Unfortunately as with his opening set the crowd didn’t seem to appreciate Gonzalez’s contribution to the show. What was the highlight of the show to me seemed to be taken by many as an opportunity to hit the bathroom or the bar.
Zero 7 did slip into their funk grooves a couple of times throughout the night when the vocalists left the stage, but the music often disintegrated into a storm of electronic beeps and whirrs that suggested 80’s video game music.
Overall, I was looking forward to a great concert showcasing some major talents from across the pond and it was a disappointing evening.
Stage Presence: C+
Set/Light Show: B-