The Disco Biscuits 12.29.12 Review
The Disco Biscuits‘ return to New York was something of a treat for diehard fans who attended all or most of the shows. The first 4 nights of the run at Best Buy Theater increased in ferocity and quality each night, an 8-set crescendo culminating on 12.29.12.
The night started off with the bust-out “Awol’s Blues,” a song not performed live since Sammy drummed for the band in late 2004. Jazzy, fun and in a style all but forsaken in the Biscuits’ newer bangers, “Awol’s Blues” exposes the roots of the Biscuits’ style like few songs can. Next came “Strobelights and Martinis.” From the first few measures, you could tell the band was aiming to bring the heat. There was some stumbling out of the starting blocks once the pace started to pick up, but they recovered their poise after a short period of discourse. Once they all got on the same page, they progressed through the long and multifaceted sections of the song with much greater proficiency. After several minutes, Barber’s noodling and Magner’s robotic organ playing were finally in sync, each complementing the other, creating that classic Biscuits sound.
The end of Strobelights segued into “I-Man.” The vocals in the first chorus left something to be desired, but you don’t go to the Biscuits because Jon is the next of the great tenors. This “I-Man” was fun and well-played, with a long extended jam that set a high bar for the rest of the night. Near the end of the extended jam, they moved into a slow and sensual groove that I always love to hear. This smooth jam went into everyone’s holiday favorite “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” for a quick sojourn into the Nutcracker Suite and then back into “I-Man” for a pretty and blissful-sounding middle section and back into Strobelights to end the song.
After Strobelights, the music stopped so the next section could be dedicated to a friend of the band. The band then went seamlessly into a heartfelt “Wet.” Well sung and containing the song’s characteristic dramatic pauses, the first section was calming but moved into an inspired guitar solo that brought the band into “Aquatic Ape,” a song that has recently only been played maybe once a year. Melancholy and fun to hear, it was the second song in the set I had never before heard live. The end of Ape sped up in well-choreographed chaos, segueing back into Wet to end what was one of the better sandwiches of the run.
The second set started out with some banter that harkened back to the band’s days of fun on the road. From the banter you could take away many things: HDPF is a love song; Jon’s parents love the song “The Great Abyss;” and quite possibly that Jon was not being hyperbolic when he said he was happy his mom bought some bunk ecstasy, if only because it let him avoid the 20-minute mom hug that would otherwise have ensued. The most striking thing, however, that I took from that banter was that the band was having fun on stage and felt good about being there with their family, friends and fans.
The second set started with HDPF (not one of my favorite songs, but it was played well and I have no complaints), leading into an inverted “Confrontation.” They then went back into HDPF, the second half of which I enjoyed thoroughly. The jam in the second half of HDPF was tight, the peaks well-coordinated and seemingly inspired. Something really pleasant that jam fans don’t get much was that the vocals in this section were not only all in tune but actually sounded pretty good. The segue into “Run Like Hell” was funky and interesting. Short staccato notes from Jon permeated the transition, complemented well by bass lines from Marc, who clearly brought his A game during the second set. The transition was long and the pace picked up coordinately with a deep thumping rhythm, after the change into the end of “Run Like Hell,” completing the 12.27.12 version.
“Run Like Hell” ended and additional banter followed with a pledge from Marc to keep it real by staying in touch with the fans. Usually a lot of banter in the middle of the set is a momentum stopper; in this case the band did not seem to be slowed down at all, jumping right back into it with “Little Betty Boop.” Through all of Boop I was impressed. The song brought no soul-shattering peaks, but the rhythm ebbed and flowed in a coordinated fashion that usually bespeaks a band that has been on tour for a few months. That being said, Jon did come in prematurely on one of the verses, though he quickly recovered, segueing into fan favorite “Tricycle.”
“Tricycle” sans an extended jam moved quickly in a “Mr. Don.” Don was fun and melodic. The beginning of the song did not start off as strong as it could have; the band seemed to have lost a bit of the coordination that they had harnessed during the beginning of the set. The tight, commanding sound they had played with all night started to return a few minutes into the first jam dominated by Magner. By the middle of the song, the band started to play with the same conviction as they had earlier in the night. Ten minutes later, nearing the end of the song, other than a few sour notes, the band had recaptured the magic that keeps people coming back show after show. Like a fish in water, they left Don unfinished and brought the second set to a close with a well-executed ending to “I-Man,” going back into the song for the third time that night.
The encore was something of a treat: “Little Lai,” a rarely played song which is making a comeback after a ferocious version at City Bisco. Lai was played well. The few minor flubs were easily overlooked and it was a great song choice for an encore and was the proper send-off we all were hoping for.