SXSW 2011: Time Out North America/NPR showcase with Duran Duran, Raphael Saadiq
It may be the only time that Yuck gets to open for Duran Duran—but the junior British upstarts threw down the partying gauntlet with glee at last night’s Time Out showcase. Whereas 2010’s show featured TONY’s fave New York acts (Andrew W.K., Das Racist, Javelin, Japanther), this year we went big, representing Time Out North America, complete with an international, chart-topping lineup (and a capacity crowd that included Jon Hamm.)
When Bun B cancelled his appearance at the Time Out North America/NPR SXSW showcase—which you can listen to here, via NPR, by the way—it was imperative to find another act that could make the most out of the large, open space that constitutes Stubb's performance stage. Answering the call and then some was the U.K.'s Yuck, who trades in the Yo La Tengo–esque hearkening indie-rock sound you've probably heard many times before, but pulls it off with great aplomb. Yuck lead singer Daniel Blumberg couldn't help but gawk at the snowballing size of the audience, admitting that he'd never played in front of a crowd so large.
The funny thing about James Blake’s meteoric rise this year is that his music is so restrained, the very opposite of hysteria. Accordingly the stage was swathed in dreamy blue lights when the dewy-faced 22-year-old producer appeared with a drummer and a keyboardist-guitarist. Songs like “Wilhelm’s Scream” already sound like established hits, and Blake’s sensual, melancholy set recalled the xx’s breakthrough performance at SXSW in 2010.
Unlike Yuck, Chicago's Smith Westerns—who are all around 20 years old, despite looking ten years younger—had much more trouble getting the right sonic impact out of their awesome, impish glam-rock. The performance seemed a little halfhearted, but not in a good, rock-star way. Still, I dare you to listen to Dye It Blonde and not have the hooks and riffs emblazoned in your mind days later. Smith Westerns' set can be streamed here.
The fact that Raphael Saadiq is a consummate pro—famous since you were in the fifth grade, pretty much—did nothing to dampen the out-and-out joy of his set. Flanked by two besuited dancer-singers, the Tony Toni Tone singer was dressed to match the old-soul groove of 2008’s The Way I See It, playing songs from that album as well as the title track of forthcoming disc, Stone Rollin'. Shirtless by the end of the set, Saadiq’s finest moment was a reworking of D’Angelo duet “You Should Be Here.”
The night belonged to Duran Duran, though. The British synth-pop heroes opened their set with “A View to a Kill”—every bit as crisp and deadly as you’d hope it to be, and alternated classic hits (“Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Ordinary World,” “Wild Boys”) with cuts from their brand-new, Mark Ronson–produced album All You Need Is Now. Impressively—astonishingly, even—the band still looks cool (would that you could say the same thing of the reformed Backstreet Boys). Besides the band’s immaculately fitted black suits, part of the reason for this is that for all their playboy behavior in the ’80s, Duran Duran could actually play and write songs…and still can. The band closed the set with a bombastic “Girls on Film,” segueing into a reworking of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” which had Simon Le Bon introducing every member of the band. He left himself until last, of course, encouraging the crowd to chant “Who’s your daddy?” in satisfyingly pompous style. And guess what? He pulled it off.
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