Getting to the further reaches of Brooklyn, away from the bright lights of Manhattan that are more familiar to the regular NYC tourist, can be a bit of a daunting task if you don’t know exactly where you’re going. Like if you’re not from around there. However, I do my research and knew exactly where Union Hall in Park Slope was.
The problem was the subway: due to nightly reconstruction of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy last autumn, my friend Lizzie and I had to take a train from Queens back into Manhattan and around again to the bottom half of Brooklyn to make it. Then we realised we had to get off much further away than we thought, then needed to hoof it to some 10 blocks south to get to the place. To say I was perspiring and nervous we’d be late would be putting it mildly. I’m sure the bouncer at the door was amused by my wheezing.
Compared to the show 2 nights previous at Bowery Electric in the East Village that Carrie captured perfectly in this review, this time the Crookes weren’t headlining but the second support band to local band Los Encantados (whose name, by the way, was embarrassingly misspelled on the chalkboard outside the entrance to the performance space). Because of the entirely unforeseen fiasco with the subway, we arrived at Union Hall too late to catch Young Rising Sons, the first opener from New Jersey, though it was a nice, unexpected touch to find venue staff Jack, a native of Brighton (and therefore possessing a beautiful English accent in the middle of Brooklyn) at the door when we went in.
While the set list was identical to the one at Bowery Electric, there were two main positive differences in the Union Hall show. First was singer George Waite’s less nervous manner, which led to funnier onstage banter. Early on in the set, he commented that they had expected American crowds to be less stoic and the audience being “so polite” reminded them of being back home in England. ‘American Girls’ was dedicated to “1/2 of this country’s population”.
Then immediately prior to guitarist/lyricist Daniel Hopewell’s star turn with the opening and closing notes of ‘Sal Paradise’ on an acoustic guitar, Waite reminded everyone that it was the week of Hopewell’s birthday. First he told everyone how old he was, but then went back on his word, saying with a grin, “…he’s actually only 21”, eliciting a similar grin on Hopewell’s face. A excited fan down the front next to me kept shouting for ‘Hold Fast’ (an egregious omission at these two shows, in my opinion) and Waite initially pretended to not understand the request and then offered up ‘Honey’ as a suitable alternative.
To be honest, the songs are two entirely different animals and therefore we do the band no favours to compare them side by side like that. But I appreciate being given ‘Honey’ twice in a 3-day span, because the ‘Afterglow’ b-side is probably one of the most emotionally charged songs of theirs lyrically that Daniel Hopewell has written. It is the story of every self-conscious, self-loathing individual who wishes he/she could “rip out my pages to be somebody else”, while hearing from a loved one that it’s all in their head and “oh honey, you’ll be fine, it just takes time”, the last thing that person wants to hear. Like newer single ‘Dance in Colour’, it too is worthy of further introspective contemplation as Waite alluded to at the London Scala show in May. Also, the Crookes had good reason to play ‘Honey’ too: it is one of three bonus tracks on the American version of ‘Hold Fast’, digitally available on the 30th of September here in the States.
Musically, they sounded very tight. Straight out of the gate, the band wowed with ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’, with its infectiously brilliant one-liner, “we don’t dance alone”. The sheer rocking goodness of lead guitarist Tom Dakin’s solo in new-ish single ‘Bear’s Blood’ was simply kick arse, as he threw his entire body into its energy. Beer spillage occurred during the band’s closing number, an acoustic version of the crowd-pleasing ‘The Cooler King’ that had punters clapping enthusiastically in time. Admittedly, it was during this number that someone else’s beer got spilt all over my sandals and my feet were wet, but I barely cared. This is the kind of music I find real to me now, true to who I am as a person in this point in time. I feel it in my feet and my head, and most importantly, in my heart.
Perhaps it being the second of their two gig commitments, the band sounded better in the smaller, one-level format of the Union Hall downstairs room versus the disjointed two-floor setup at Bowery Electric because there would be no further gig anxiety after this one. After the Brooklyn show, I caught up with Waite to ask him which show he felt went down better; he said he thought the first one, though I disagreed. The newer converts at the Union Hall show were certainly more excited to see the band, hanging out afterwards to chat with the band to learn more about them. As a music editor, this was really great for me to witness first-hand, as I’ve heard and seen so much potential from the Crookes from the very beginning, and now they’re starting on the next chapter of what I’m sure will be a long, brilliant career.
After the cut: the Crookes’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Crookes at Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY – 19th September 2013