The Big Pink @ El Rey Theatre 11/18/09
The Big Pink is the kind of band you want to discover in a secret warehouse party downtown. The kind that requires a password to get in, could be broken up by the cops at any time, and the only reason you know about it is because you're neighbor's best friend knows a guy who knows a guy who's dating the drummer. Had they been an LA band, that's probably how they would be known. As it is, these Londoners played their first US gig ever at...The El Rey. Not exactly the right vibe, but that didn't stop them from creating their own atmosphere from scratch. When the curtains lifted we were hit with a wall of white smoke, flashing strobe lights and noise. I can only guess that they went on half an hour late, was because they spent all that time filling the stage with smoke.
Arriving on a tidal wave of hype from their native England, The Big Pink filled the El Rey with expectant fans and critics all ready to see if their live show was as good as their debut album A Brief History of Love which was released in September. And was it? Well, I guess the best answer to that question is sometimes.
What makes The Big Pink so great is their ability to fuse together seemingly contradictory elements. Using one part industrial electro dance beats, one part fuzzed out guitar, one part pretty synth melodies, one part huge rock drums, one part some droning vocals and shake them together and you have The Big Pink. Their live show is basically all of these elements turned up to eleven. Opening with painfully shrieking guitars, giant drums, a body shaking bass that caused all of your particles to vibrate with a shocking intensity, soothed by some lovely synth, The Big Pink sounded like they were out for blood when the curtains opened. "Too Young to Love" was bigger than life as all of the audience's senses were assaulted. The smoke and strobe lights made it impossible to stare right at the spectacle for too long, and the sound was all encompassing. Even if you wanted to it was impossible to turn to your neighbor and discuss the show because it was all you could do to keep blinking.
Or at least they were for the first three numbers, but somewhere around "Crystal Visions" Pink seemed to have run out of gas. What was once a towering beast of a show, suddenly became a whimpering shadow of it's former self. It was as if someone had knocked the wind out of the group and they were deflating at a painfully slow rate, which took the form of long stretches of droning guitar punctuated by half-hearted drums. By "Count Backwards From Ten" when lead singer, Robbie Furze begins singing the chorus "Better off dead/Better off dead," you could look around the room and see that the crowd felt the same way. A good chunk of them took off half way through that number. And their cover of Otis Redding's "These Arms Of Mine" was frankly, one of the worst things I've ever heard coming off of a stage. No one wants the great O. covered by a droning shoegazey/industrial mess. It's like peeing on his grave. Stick to Jesus and the Mary Chain, guys. Seriously, soul is not for you.
But on their very last song, the Big Pink resuscitated their US debut, by throwing the musical equivalent of a Hail Mary pass in the form of their poppy single, "Dominoes." Like a patient who's just woke up from a seven year (seven song) coma, the Big Pink came back to life and shook the place down. Which made everyone wonder, "Where the hell was this for the past couple numbers? Why have you been torturing us with this uninteresting slop?" Perhaps they just don't have the stamina for a full set yet. Perhaps they need to go to the rock 'n' roll gym and practice hard. But man alive, if they ever get it together for the whole set, they will be unstoppable.