Thursday, November 04, 2010

Booka Shade Played Music Hall of Williamsburg, Oct. 26

Booka Shade defy the notion that live electronic music is encapsulated with the push of a button. The Berlin duo of Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger are the antithesis of DJs, eschewing vinyl and Serato for the visceral sounds of real instruments. There's still heavy use of programmed beats and samples, but when Booka Shade plays live, it's a performance. Their set at Music Hall of Williamsburg last week was a forceful reminder that the group can fill arenas, while still conveying the subtlety of their earlier work.

As always, it was Kammermeier on percussion and Merziger handling samples and electronics, with the occasional vocodor-warped singing. They wove classic tracks from Movements with newer material from 2008's The Sun and the Neon Light and this year's More!, tilting between bittersweet electro pop and moody tech house.

The most satisfying tracks were inevitably the classics. They dropped "Darko" early on, and later transitioned beautifully from "Charlotte" to "Night Falls," the understated masterpiece that opens Movements. The anthemic "Body Language (Interpretation)" had the crowd chanting the bassline, which has become a sort of tradition, and "Mandarine Girl" was, as always, spectacular. Sadly, "In White Rooms" either wasn't played or was overlooked.

Alas, with such a daunting back catalog, embracing the newer stuff is an uphill battle. The effusive, jittering climax of "Regenerate" and the stuttering beats of "Teenage Spaceman" were enjoyable enough, but don't quite reach the heights of Booka's club essentials. The group's new focus on lyricism is also a bit questionable, but thankfully new songs like "Bad Love" were about beats, first and foremost.

The crowd was great throughout the night, with hands in the air and bodies leaping. The high energy level was reciprocated, with the band adding on an extra song to the encore, and graciously thanking the audience throughout the set.

Both as producers and founders of the seminal label Get Physical, Booka Shade is one of the most influential electronic artists of the last decade, and the set demonstrated that they're still one of the most engrossing performers.

Here's another review from the show at my alma mater, Washington Square News, and the amazing Jon Pareles checked them out back in May at the same venue. Video from Lost in Sound, and rest of the photos after the jump.

Booka Shade - "Mandarine Girl" (Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg)

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