Live Review: Ladyhawke with Computer Magic at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 10th September 2012

By on Wednesday, 12th September 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a great turnout for the Ladyhawke show in DC on Monday night. While the first album did pretty well here on the strength of the sheer danciness of its tracks, the rock ‘n’ roll direction Pip Brown decided to go in for second album ‘Anxiety’ didn’t lend itself automatically to stateside popularity, at least in my mind anyway. RNR shows always start late, so I was not surprised that we weren’t let into the performance space until a good 2 hours after the doors were supposed to be open. (Okay…) But it should be said that the transition between the four different acts – yes, four – was pretty quick. One man DJ / producer Lightwaves started off the evening with a short but beat heavy set, incorporating Florence and the Machine and an alternative, dancier version of Yeah Yeah Yeah‘s ‘Heads Will Roll’ in his mix.

It also appeared that both he and the next act, also local, had their own cheering sections. A one man singer / producer / dancer, Bernard Farley goes by the stage name of Outputmessage. Both Lightwaves and his appearances seemed odd to me – I mean, hasn’t the Ladyhawke sound been going away from dance? But this set, which involved Farley queueing up songs on his laptop, fiddling with buttons on a standalone sequencer and busting moves like Jacko in between singing his version of electro soul was pretty good. And I’ve just learned he’s 1/3 of local electronic act Volta Bureau. Sweet.

When it comes to art imitating life (as in my life), nothing would be weirder than Computer Magic, the project of Danielle “Danz” Johnson, a young 20-something blogger turned musician now living in the capital of everything so hipster these days, Brooklyn. On stage, Johnson looks like a doll that I used to have when I was small: blonde, with big hair and a cute dress. The music sounds very ’80s, and Johnson provides a disaffected vocal that at times makes her sound like a kindly android. But hey, the same could be said about Phil Oakey in some of Human League’s greatest hits, right? Though she relied heavily on her Macbook, the drumming firepower was provided live (thankfully) by Chris Egan, who’s basically a machine, pounding out the beats. Listen to ‘Moving Forward’ below.

I didn’t like ‘Anxiety’ very much. However, I wanted to give Pip Brown the benefit of the doubt, considering how much I adored her 2008 debut album. As if to cater to fans like myself, the Ladyhawke set was exactly half (eight songs each) ‘Ladyhawke’, half ‘Anxiety’. Brown appeared in a Ryan Adams t-shirt, patterned shirt and jeans, swelling with pride at all the hooting and hollering as she strapped on her guitar. She then commented drolly, “I didn’t know anyone knew me in Washington”. Evidently, they do. She and her touring band hammered out song after song, seemingly effortlessly moving from the electropop sound that first made her famous years ago to the newer, rockier songs that Brown has said is her way of tackling her Asperger’s syndrome head on.

While I still feel there are some lyrics that sound weird and emotionless coming out of Brown’s mouth (like the whole “I can’t pretend to hate you / ’cause I will always love you” of ‘Sunday Drive’, for one), it’s clear from her body language that she is much less guarded in front of audiences and feels more comfortable in her skin, which is a great thing. Ultimately though, it was the old favourites that garnered the best response. ‘Paris is Burning’ was demanded by various audience members multiple times, so much that Brown had to shout, “it’s coming. Wait!” The band’s parting blow of the evening was monster hit ‘My Delirium’, which briefly turned all of the crowd into a full-on dancing one. (See the video at the end of this post.)

One gripe: As someone who hasn’t seen Ladyhawke since September 2009, I felt kind of disappointed when the overzealous shouting of other punters spoiled the surprise for me. All I can assume is that they either had already seen her at the first show on this tour at New York’s Bowery Ballroom 2 nights earlier or had read the reviews from that show, as one man’s voice was booming for “White Rabbit!” and a pair of clearly pissed women in leather jackets loudly and impertinently asked between songs, “can you do a cover? What cover would you do if you could do any you wanted?” Even before she played it, I put two and two together and figured she’d be covering the Jefferson Airplane song. Would have been nice to have found out from the artist herself, but I guess with Le Internet, beggars can’t be choosers.

After the cut: Ladyhawke’s set list.

Ladyhawke Set List:
Back of the Van
Blue Eyes
Girl Like Me
Anxiety
Professional Suicide
Magic
Dusk ’til Dawn
Black, White and Blue
The Quick and the Dead
Love Don’t Live Here Anymore
Cellophane
Vanity
Better Than Sunday
Sunday Drive
Paris is Burning
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane cover)
My Delirium

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