Thursday, October 17, 2013

Live review: Beats Antique, Chop Shop (10/15/2013)

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Beats Antique
Chop Shop
Oct. 15, 2013

"Ever have the devil inside of you trying to creep out?" Conservatively attired in vest, hat and tie, Beats Antique's percussionist Tommy Cappel good-naturedly baited the near-capacity crowd as the ethno-electro mind-expanding trio launched into "Beelzebub" featuring the Primus-like slap bass and wierd-ass Residents inspired vocals of Les Claypool. Mephistopheles may not have been unleashed at the Chop Shop Tuesday night, but the genie of the id was certainly freed from its bottle.

Hula hoopers, an army of spangly belly dancers and some retro-ravers twirling glowsticks were in the audience, which surged like a sea to the rumbling synth beats, blaring horns and Bollywood violins unleashed by Cappel and guitarist-keyboardist David Satori.

Perched on an elaborate stage which transformed from twisted Dr. Caligari streets to metaphysical lava light show due to shape shifting digital projections, Cappel and Satori were oddly down-to-earth in their otherworldly setting. Yet the real connection with the crowd came from ballet-trained dancer and performance artist Zoe Jakes. Though Jakes remained mute throughout the evening, she spoke volumes with arch theatricality, supple movement and elaborate costumes.

On opening number "Overture" Jakes was bejeweled Mata Hari, shimmying to a Bollywood and Vine arrangement for drum, fiddle and LSD.

Though Beats Antique rock, their gigs are nothing like a rock 'n' roll concert. Inventive and meticulously planned, the show is a high-tech, virtual reality upgrade of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Energetic and thought provoking, the Beats' set was based on their new LP A Thousand Faces - Act 1 which supposedly revolves around a hero's journey à la Gilgamesh on acid.

Yet all this bombast and motion blur had the see-saw structure of an old school variety show. Jakes went through more costume changes than Cher in her Bob Mackie-bedecked glory days. During a crass and brassy number satirizing Vegas glitz, Jakes performed a glitter fan dance in peacock feathers. Digital projections doubled her, so that multiple Jakes performed a geometric Busby Berkley routine to blaring James Bond electro.

At another point, Jakes looked like a Finnish hunting goddess cum snow queen, sporting antlers, a Basilisk's stare and a wind-blown white dress that fluttered up her legs, recalling the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe atop a subway grate, her skirt billowing.

Jakes conveyed a lot through her series of masks and poses, sometimes balancing the sacred with the profane, but for her to affect some not-so-quick changes, Cappel and Satori vamped through several bludgeoning dance tracks like the guitar, bass and horn swagger of "The Approach" which was illustrated with projections of middle eastern sea monsters and mystic hands of fate.

Yet Jakes proved worth the wait, particularly on show stopper "Cat Skillz." Proceeded by video of Cappel and Satori as leering low rent carnival barkers, Jakes sashayed onstage as a sideshow floozy, picking a female volunteer from the audience (who I suspect was a ringer) to receive a t-shirt from the merchandising table. All hell broke loose with blaring air raid synths as a giant inflatable one-eyed alien cat creature grappled with the girls, proving as threatening as a colorful Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon.

Despite the glitz and knowing, humorous winks, the Beats were most effective when they dialed the showmanship down a notch. Hooded like an extra in Ingmar Bergman's "Seventh Seal," guest male vocalist and Sorne frontman Morgan Sorne perched before projections of ruined and smoking cities on "Kismat." Performing astounding wordless runs, his high falsetto echoed the legendary Edda Dell'Orso's work on classic Ennio Morricone soundtracks. Likewise, Jakes finest moment may have been her precise and fluid Balinese temple dance that accompanied the haunted chiming bells of "Pandora's Box."

Beat's Antique's rush for spectacle may have verged on overkill, a kind of Lion King for the alternative set. Yet at their best on Tuesday night, the Beats pried the lid off Pandora's mythic treasure chest, unleashing sex, glamor, mysticism, terror and satire. It was the subconscious popping out of a jewel encrusted jack-in-the box, the greatest show on earth.

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