Show Review: Little Boots, Dragonette and Class Actress at The Fillmore, 3/9/10

by Gordon Elgart on March 10, 2010

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Casting another glance at the sound guy? (Photos of Little Boots by David Price.)

At 6:00, I was crowded into the country section at Amoeba waiting to watch Little Boots perform a short in-store at Amoeba. She played four songs there, all solo, sang them beautifully (including a Kate Bush cover), and then proceeded to sign copies of her album as I made my over to The Fillmore to see her full band set. Little did I know that only hours later, I’d be trying to defend her to people, for The Fillmore show was not a good night for Little Boots. All was not lost, though, as there was definitely one band worth seeing.

Starting the night off was Class Actress, a Brooklyn band I had heard a little, but wasn’t too excited about. Sometimes, my reviews of bands take the form of advice to the bands.

On stage, there’s nothing sadder than someone trying really hard to be sexy when they’re simply not. Removing layers of clothes did not help. Please do us all a favor and put your jacket back on. The ripped tank top with exposed bra look is not working. It’s distracting from the music, which apart from your singing is pretty good.

Everybody wants to be a hipster princess?

I think they picked the wrong friend to be the lead singer. I was wondering during their set if the synth player has his own project, because that one I’d like to hear.

After the disappointing, outmatched, and crowd numbing performance of Class Actress, I was ready for a boost. Thankfully, Dragonette was about to come on stage.

And they lit the place on fire. Not literally (although the smell of burning meat was wafting through the air), but from the moment they walked on stage, they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Their Dorothy-Hamill-coiffed lead singer, Martina Sorbara, controlled the stage with her powerful vocals and intense dance moves. The whole band sounded incredible, and the audience came to life. They were loudly singing along with songs I had never heard before, and the dancing energy was contagious. By the end of their set, I felt like I just watched the headliner. I commented that Little Boots better have brought her A-game because Dragonette just blew the room away.

A hard act to follow

Unfortunately, from the very start it was apparent that Little Boots’ A-game was not to be found at The Fillmore. The visually impressive opening of “Ghost” with the entire band wearing cloaks and providing percussion was going along swimmingly until the synth kicked in, at a disturbingly loud volume that no one expected. I’m sure knobs were being turned quickly to make the balance better, but not fast enough. Then Little Boots threw off her cloak to reveal one of her trademark dresses, and the dance party was on, although the mix was still oppressive at best. Her fans, though, screamed and danced like crazy, enjoying themselves on a Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, on stage, things were not going well technically. During a track called “Click,” the live drummer was ironically not in sync with the sequenced drums and the vocals were turned down so low on Little Boots that you could only hear her backup singer (who wasn’t really on note), so I was watching a synth-pop train wreck right before my eyes. Victoria kept looking to the side of the stage and making gestures, trying to get people to get the mix right. At one point, she asked that the live drums be turned up because they weren’t supposed to be “ambient noise.” It also became apparent when the vocals finally did get turned up that her monitor wasn’t really working at all and she was guessing at the notes. She had sung so beautifully earlier today, but up on stage it was a bit trying for her, yet she kept on soldiering through.

So while the technical side of the show was falling apart around her, Little Boots herself was bouncing around the stage doing her best to perform under the circumstances. Her fans, as I’d mentioned earlier, never wavered, singing when asked, screaming along, dancing to the good dance numbers, and showing their support. It’s possible that people who go to fewer shows than I do may not have recognized the turmoil happening up there. Or perhaps they didn’t want to notice. It’s amazing what fandom and vodka can do for someone.

When she finally came out for the encore, sat down by herself at the electric piano, and played a clumsy cover of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” which she played even though she admitted that she really doesn’t know the lyrics very well (which was obvious) and a new song called “Echoes,” we finally got to hear the talent she actually has. She played a verse of “Stuck on Repeat” by herself before the band came back on stage, and I considered whether or not she’d be better off as a solo performer anyway. Her four-song Amoeba set was more of a showcase than the full set at The Fillmore had been.

Snapped at Amoeba, during a happier time.

Little Boots set list for 3/9/2010

Ghost
New in Town
Click
Hearts Collide
Mathematics
Symmetry
Earthquake
Meddle
Remedy
————–
Don’t You Want Me (Human League cover)
Echoes (new song, may have the title wrong)
Stuck on Repeat

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For a review of a really good Little Boots show we all went to, read here.

Enjoy some photos from David Price (Little Boots) and Carla Deasy (all others):

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

indiequick March 10, 2010 at 9:13 pm

You got it right. Little Boots = complete disappointment.

And here’s where I get all soapboxy. I know my Lady Gaga opinions the world could do without (really, you call this music?) and some might call me elitist or snobby for it. Whatever. I know the chick is talented and she can write great songs and sing.

And Little Boots is the same thing. Behind a piano singing, she does extremely well – and it’s very easy to see her talent. But when forced into a “now entertain the crowd and sing” role, she falls flat on her face. This overproduction of music from a theatrical stance has got to stop.

The labels figured out if you could duplicate Britney Spears, you could make some cash. Same thing with Gaga. And poor Little Boots is just the victim of the system that tries to oversell a girl who can write good songs and play a piano.

At least, that’s what I saw at the Fillmore.

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Gordon Elgart March 11, 2010 at 11:12 am

That’s a fair take, and probably close to what happened to her. Her first singles were done with Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, and the Moroder inspired “Stuck on Repeat” is an amazing single, no matter how you slice it.

Later she was paired up with Greg Kurstin (love his work as “The Bee” but he is a go-to pop shlockmaster) and a few other producers, and although it’s a good album full of poppy goodness, trying to recreate it live was a failure, at least for this one night.

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