How Do You See Bananarama And Tyler The Creator On The Same Night? You Don’t
I’ve done this screw up before. Last night, with Helen Bach and her daughter Mary in town, Helen and I planned to catch Bananarama with my niece Louba and her husband Michael at Playstation, while Mary went to Tyler The Creator at the Theatre At Madison Square Garden. What could go wrong?
Well, the last time I tried to hit two gigs on the same night, I went to Buddy Guy at BB Kings and the Del Lords at Bowery Electric, in June 2013. The math was simple: The Del Lords were headlining a three band concert, there is no way they could hit the stage before 10pm. Unless they moved their performance to the second of the evening. Why would the morons do that? You got me, I’ve never heard of a headlining act not headlining before or since. But that’s what the Del Lords did and I missed their set.
You would think I’d learn my lesson, but noooooo. I figured Bananarama might forego the opening act slot altogether and go on around 815, play for 90 minutes and off, and Helen and I could dash to MSG and catch most of Tyler The Creators set. But even if they went on at nine, we could leave at ten, miss a third of Bananarama, and still catch much of Tyler. Yeah, right.
Believe the hype: the Vegan restaurant “P.S. Kitchen,” where all the food is plant based and all the profits (both times I’ve been there the place has been packed) go to charity, is all that. Every plate I’ve ordered has been top notch and while the service is slow, two hours for five of us to finish our meal, if you aren’t in a hurry it is a joy to hang out in, all art deco and soft background music so you can hear yourself think.
Bananarama was to begin at 8pm and we arrived with plenty but not too much time. You can’t say enough about Playstation, it is one of my favorite rooms in the city, a large standing room only section followed by a large seated area, very comfortable, very high tech. It would have been terrific except for one think, they brought a DJ who played the same sort of dance, mix of 80s pop and synth and EDM that the venue was piping anyway and the moustached nitwit performed for 75 minutes. Quite why he thought we needed to hear Prince that much and Michael Jackson not at all when, in fact, we needed him off the stage and Bananarama on the stage I can’t tell you. Then another round of soundchecks, that’s right… If a band has already spent the afternoon soundchecking why they need to soundcheck again is one of life’s great mysteries. And the exact same music we had been stuck, what’s that word, watching since 8pm, kept on coming through the speakers while they did a check of the lighting system. THEN they lowered the lights and canned us in with the entire “Let’s Go Crazy”. Why would they do that? Did they think nearly two hours of pre-recorded playlists wasn’t enough? Why would they think that?
By the time Bananarama hit the stage with a small band and a DJ doing most of the heavy lifting, I was already checking my watch and planning my escape. What helped was that on this, their first nyc show EVER, they were nothing much so I sure didn’t feel that Helen and I would miss too much. The sound was tinny, they pale in comparison to Little Mix, never even mind Spice Girls, they lack charm and they lack charisma, and, with exceptions (none of which I was around to hear), their catalog is spotty at best. I get that the audience were there for a rush of nostalgia and they got it, but despite a pretty good “Cruel Summer,” what I saw wasn’t terrific, the women looked great, and sung as well as they ever did, but they had an undeserved snarky side and they can’t dance for toffee. Helen warned me that I was so angry it would effect my opinion and when the longest set you get to see is some lame guy with rotten moves, she could well have been right.
Half an hour into Bananarama we hit the road for 14 blocks down to MSG. We could have walked but it was raining and we were in a hurry so we grabbed a cab and got caught in traffic. Yes, we did. And got toTyler with half an hour left to go in his set. I was listening to “Yonkers” as we got to our seats and was firmly in place by the time he reached “Who Dat Boy”. I’ve seen Tyler many times, last year at Panorama, where he was so distracted and fucking about so much he was terrible, for one. But I’ve seen him great as well. A show at T5 with Odd Future was pandemonium, and a fifth year anniversary at Hammerstein brought Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean back in the fold. But that was then and the shock for me was the concentrated power and glory of his rapping and his backing, Tyler isn’t the scatalagocial, daddy issues, homophobic mess he once was. Dressed in his branding cargo shorts and Margaretville shirt , Tyler didn’t look like the post Adult Swim man he clearly had become, yet he was. Leaning too heavily on his last release, Flower Boy, which I dismissed at the time but hearing it live turned me round, he ended the night by admitting it was better than the previous night (where A$AP Rocky joined in). My problem with Tyler is the drop off in quality between Goblin and Wolf, the loss was enormous, so big that I stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt. Flower Boy is a good album, sometimes very good, it is pan-American hip hop that sneers in the face of sexual stereotyping and misunderstood ebonics.
I’d been seconds away from going to see Tyler Friday night, because I wanted to catch Vince Staples, and decided not to. I regret it now. Stay tuned for Helen Bach’s take.
Bananarama – C
Tyler The Creator – B+