Lyrics Born Live @ The Picador, Iowa City 4/15/09 (Review)

Lyrics Born
My wife Sherry and I were really looking forward to this show. LB had canceled his Minneapolis show last fall so he could help campaign for Obama, and we really hadn’t had an opportunity to hear a lot of the Everywhere At Once songs live. Additionally, this mini-tour was going to be done with a DJ instead of a full band, and we hadn’t heard LB in this context since we saw Latryx opening for DJ Shadow in Minneapolis at Quest as part of the Goodwill Tour where Shadow was the DJ for them. On top of that, we have the new single “Funky Hit Records” and Joyo’s new EP on the horizon meant that we’d get to hear her new songs, too.

Unfortunately, the prospects of the show started to wane a bit starting with Sherry either having a cold or some very bad allergy symptoms. Like a trooper, though, she wasn’t going to allow mere illness to get in the way of seeing this show. Out of all of the shows I drag her to, the Lyrics Born shows are her favorite and admittedly more of a good time than some.

We showed up just after doors were supposed to open, and we could hear Lyrics Born upstairs doing a soundcheck. We did manage to get a great parking spot right in front of the Picador. Although, that should have indicated what was to come for the show.

We made our way upstairs as soon as we were allowed, and went to the bar to figure out what we were going to drink. We both started with Absolut screwdrivers. Part of the reason we showed up so early was to make sure we got a table so we could sit if we wanted. The Picador has a very unpredictable table situation– one show has a few tables, and the next won’t have any. This was a won’t have any show, except there was a collection of chairs situated in a circle at the back opposite the soundboard occupied by some people engaged in conversation. At this moment there was maybe twenty people total in the place. Sherry and I situated ourselves at a pole in front of the soundboard– at least we could lean if we needed.

The first act was Big Zay a producer-MC from Davenport who I’d never heard of, but apparently had performed at The Picador before. He claims to have a unique blend of dance music and rap– I’m not sure I think it is that unique, really. The show was him on stage in cargo pants, flip-flops and at one point a wig rapping and singing over a music track. I think the guy is pretty talented, but really his music is pretty unmemorable and I think he lacks a stage presence– he doesn’t command the audience the same way a more seasoned performer would. He chugged through his short set of happy tunes about clubs and girls quickly if not painlessly. His finale song “Love Can Change The World” is apparently– in his words– why he’s performing and why he’s on stage. Mostly the song is comprised of the song title, and while I appreciate the sentiment, the small crowd probably didn’t help deliver it’s promise.

The following act was one I was interested in seeing having checked out their MySpace page– Porno Galactica from Fairfield, IA. Their brand of electronica is reminiscent of Big Beat and drew quick comparisons to the Chemical Brothers and at points like “Next is the E” Moby. Not content to be laptop rockers the brothers Dom and Phil Rabalais were bouncing around the stage and running around the room while tweeking their gadgets on stage. If I would have been a lot more drunk, I might have found their schtick more amusing– as it was I left feeling that they were having a lot of fun, but probably the minority in that. Ultimately, their irreverant approach to their show– while punky– had little to do with showmanship, and really not very complimentary to the headliner. If they were supposed to be a warm-up act, they actually had the opposite effect as it seemed that the small crowd actually shrunk during their show.

So, I have to hand it to Lyrics Born. He hit the stage and truly delivered the show that he would have delivered to a crowd– well frankly, 500 times the size of the Picador crowd on that Wednesday night.
Lyrics Born
Quite a bit of LB’s set was similar to the live shows Sherry and I saw in Minneapolis over the last three years relying on mainstays in his catalog, holding on to some of the “prop” moves like the freezing at the end of a song and doing the stopping the song part to get the crowd to cheer. Well, it works every time. LB really knows how to work a live show and takes command of the stage. He seemed a bit off to me, but this is due to the fact that he actually was fighting a cold and said that he had considered canceling the show, but wanted to come out because this was his first time in Iowa City.
DJ D-Sharp, Lyrics Born & Joyo Velarde
So, I was a bit embarassed by the low turnout. A quick count of the room gave me somewhere around 60 or 70 people.The shows in Minneapolis had been over 200, typically. But, really it had to be the LOUDEST group of 60 or 70 I’ve ever been a part of– the audience was hooting, screaming, cheering and singing along like a crowd 10 times the size! Clearly, everyone there was a fan, and that was a relief.

I don’t know why the show had such a low turnout– I didn’t see much promotion for the show other than my blog. Maybe there was more coverage in the Daily Iowan. Plus, it was a mid-week show and experience shows that Iowa City lights up more towards the weekend. One criticism I’d have is that really the Picador isn’t the right venue for Lyrics Born. It has the trashy indie bar atmosphere, and not the more classy atmosphere I’m used to seeing LB in.
Joyo Sings "Take You Home"
The high points of the night were the new songs from both Lyrics Born and Joyo for me. LB said that he had a couple hundred thousand downloads of “Funky Hit Records” which is from his next album. He said that it was proof that he could do it without intervention of a record label. It’s a great song live and I think it will be a show centerpiece until the album comes out this fall if not beyond. A super treat was getting a solo performance from Joyo of  her new single “Take You Home” which is also a free download. I’m hoping we see more shows where Joyo would take the role of warmup act for Lyrics Born.

 Lyrics Born and Joyo Velarde

The show ended up with a really long freestyle from Lyrics Born, which was really exciting, but the show concluded on a low note as we didn’t get an encore. But, considering that he was sick I certainly don’t fault him for that. I really want to believe that Lyrics Born should be able to pull a larger crowd in Iowa than he got that night and if he comes around again, I’ll certainly do what I can to promote the show. In the meantime, I’ll continue to try to see him in Minneapolis where he has a guaranteed crowd.

Click Here to see my flickr.com photoset of the Lyrics Born show in Iowa City

Setlist:

Hello
Do That There (remix version)
Don’t Change
Hot 2 Def
I’m A Freak
I Like It, I Love It
The World Is Calling
Top Shelf
Calling Out
I Changed My Mind
Cakewalk
Differences
Take You Home (Joyo Solo)
Pack Up
I’m Just Raw
Bad Dreams
Funky Hit Records
Freestyle from LB.

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