by The Spin
When we walked into Mercy Lounge last night, it wasn't even 10 p.m., but sole opener Pantha du Prince was already almost done with his set of washy electronics, and the room was already completely full — of fog, that is. Or, technically, haze — apparently there is a difference, at least in the world of theatrical air obfuscation. It was way hazy, but a good night for people-watching: Among the sizable crowd, WRVU DJs Sam Patton and Kelly Taylor, Local Honey's Shea Steele, an American Idol contestant or two and that dude in that band, many times over, mingled with an unusually diverse (for a rock show) cross-section of Nashville's unconventionally beautiful people.
The first time The Spin saw Blonde Redhead, what seems like forever ago, their light show consisted of two klieg lights to either side of the stage, both of which stayed on for the entire set. The effect was stark, dramatic and severe — kind of like the band's music at the time. On this night, they played in front of five immense silver umbrellas that, at full power, made us feel like were basking in the floodlights from a spaceship or some gorgeous alien sunset. Scattered around the stage, warm orange filaments chased around like trapped fireflies inside clear bulbs. In other words, this show was heavy on atmosphere.
And as if to emphasize that the band has recently taken a cue or two from arty Swedish duo The Knife, Kazu Makino appeared onstage in a hood and a large mask adorned with what looked like ... tusks? Made of blonde wig-hair? It was hard to see exactly, but in any case that didn't matter much. Once she started singing, she could have been wearing a Christine O'Donnell T-shirt and Juggalo make-up, and we wouldn't have cared — her voice sounds like it's everywhere in the room and is amazing.
For most of the set, Makino and her twin brother bandmates Amedeo and Simone Pace (who were also joined by a keyboard player on some songs) stayed to the ethereal, electronic and shoegaze-y end of their catalogue, namely Penny Sparkle, 23 and Misery Is a Butterfly. They hardly said a word between songs the whole night, but when Makino said, “Thank you,” someone yelled back, “Thank you for playing Nashville!” — a sentiment we wholeheartedly approve.
We can count on one hand the number of songs they played last night that they also played the last time we saw them — which is pretty impressive for a band with eight full-length albums to their name and a panoply of fan-favorite, potential live staples therein. It just goes to show that the reason people still pay to see Blonde Redhead is that they are simply a great band, with an onstage chemistry that transcends catalogue. That said, the catalogue is awfully good: In particular, “In Particular,” with its string-tickling guitar riff, got quite the ovation, and deservedly so. While we genuinely like the newer stuff and the blippy-bloopy electronic percussion, songs like “Melody for a Certain Three,” which opened the too-brief encore, reminded us that this is also a band with serious rock chops. We kind of wish those had been on display a bit more last night — and we were secretly holding out hope for “Bipolar” — but we are definitely not complaining. The show was so good that even listening to a bunch of people argue about U2 on the balcony afterward couldn’t snuff our glow.