Governors Ball Day One At Randall’s Island, Friday, June 2nd, 2017 Reviewed
It was a warm Spring day, sun shining, and the polar opposite of last year’s apocalyptic weather at Randall’s Island for Governors Ball. After a 90 minute commute there I was at the side of the Bacardi stage, searching for rock nyc writer Mary Rudzis who is somewhere or else with her boyfriend Gary. I would find her later, you’ll be relieved to know!
This is easily the best organized year GovBall, every improvement has been made for a smoother experience -the Live Nation touch is obvious and pricey and extensive. Indeed, it feels bigger, more roomy though Friday is sold out, they’ve paved over some areas, made it simpler to navigate between the hill that houses the “Big Apple” and “Honda” stages and the rest of the Island. It would help if they had volunteers from New York navigating you out of the Island near the end. And it would help if some of the staff weren’t so officious. But that’s about all my complaints in one place. Most important, the weather is exactly what we’d hope for in very early June. Yet I’m not really enjoying it as much as I might. There is too much wandering around like a poor refugee while teenage plans 20s kids irritate the hell out of me -it’s a fifteen minute walk between the :Big Apple” and “Govs Ball” stages. I go to too many concerts for the bands to make up for it -I passed on Chance The Rapper (who was standing next to me at the Kehlani set -instead of onstage singing “The Way” with her).
Francis And The Lights – a DJ and a rock star, with a coupla hits to their name, Francis Starlite is a great mover and the DJ holds it down while Francis fits and skits. Not bad, the sound is a little big bass ooom pah pah and the voice immaculate – B
Kehlani – Kehlani is a talented woman, very much a modern R&B star doing it so well, really swell. And she and her two backup dancers can really move… the and is swell, keyboard, DJ. But the sound was disastrous… couldn’t hear anything but the hammer going down. O left my perch three quarters of the way through the set and walked away and the sound improved. Nice little shout out to LGBTQ as Pride Week envelopes us – C+
Charles Bradley – I’ve never much enjoyed his is it memorex or is it real soul brother schtick but I could be wrong, he was a blast of energy and power and much better than the record – B
Charli XCX – “I Love It” got the audience jumping up and down but otherwise all the dancing and singing didn’t seem able to work its magic, it couldn’t the last time I saw her either – C
Bleachers – In a “Let’s Go Mets” tucked into his jeans wife beater and a haircut which has him resembling a buff friend in Summer Of ’42 (a ringer for Jerry Houser), Jack Antonoff manages to get the enthused audience to singalong to his lousy new single “I Miss Those Days” off his lousy new album. Consider it the power of positive singing as he rips through his stamina 80s pop wannabes. A mammoth “You Can Go Your Own Way” manages to remind you how bad the new Half Mac and Bleachers anemic anthems are. He follows it with a terrific “Rollercoaster” for the best moment of the day so far – B
Danny Brown – with one of the great voices in rap, like Snoop he is entirely distinctive, through the nose and to the air, he is right on top of the beats while making his wishes clear -all pussy and drugs. Danny claims he wants to die like a rock star maybe because he already living like one: a smart, charismatic rapper and rhymer who played it long and hard with just a pro tools and DJ behind him. Both of his albums are must owns and this makes up for a flat gig I caught a coupla years ago at PlayStation -when he uses his baritone he sounds like two rappers in one and when he gets his hands on a hook (pace “Smoking And Drinking” and “Ain’t It Funny”) he is a giant and his comment to forget your troubles till tomorrow rang true – A-
Lorde – I dropped by Schoolboy Q to see if he had recovered from his major meltdown last year but got a tour DJ instead, as I left I heard “Gangsta” in the background. So I caught the tail end of Nancy Whang’s’ (the LCD Soundsystem band member) birthday DJ set and waited fir the return of Lorde. I had seen her twice before and she was fine both times though of her three singles from the upcoming album only the latest “Perfect Places” has blown me away. She was well on her game last night, just her second gig on the second act of her career, the still teen Lorde is well past the first stage where there was a sullenness to her teenage angst, this was full throttle rock star . With a fistful of dancers in a transparent box hovering above her , Lorde grabs her mic and stalks the lip of the stage, waiting for the music to overwhelm her. She joins the dancers for “Ribs,” though as dancers go she’s a great flayer about, put it this way, Kehlani ain’t losing sleep. I’m not convinced the performance art aspect help much. It’s visually arresting but a touch pointless. She sits at a piano for a coupla songs and I firmly believe the whole of Govs Ball was in front of her, she could have headlined. The Bleachers boy, who is all over the newbie, sits next to her for a terrific “Liability”. Antonoff is born to collaborate whether with Taylor Swift, Nate Ruess or Lorde. The entire performance reached its height with “Royals” matched by “Perfect Places” and during “Team” she jumped off the stage and met her fans, of which I am one -A-
Majid Jordan – Drake’s buddies, a little enervating but better than on record – C+