battlespic1.jpg
Todd Hamm
(L-R) Ian Williams, John Stanier, Dave Konopka

Battles

Neptune Theatre

Wednesday, October 12

Released in June, Battles' sophomore full-length Gloss Drop proved a

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Battles Brings Out the Best in an Already Awesome Catalogue, Last Night at the Neptune

battlespic1.jpg
Todd Hamm
(L-R) Ian Williams, John Stanier, Dave Konopka

Battles

Neptune Theatre

Wednesday, October 12

Released in June, Battles' sophomore full-length Gloss Drop proved a point. It stood as evidence that the New York trio had taken the loss of singer/guitarist Tyondai Braxton in stride, and remained a fully capable progressive-rock band--albeit of a slightly different flavor. Indeed, the "groove" runs strong through GD, and its worldly rhythms were delivered onstage with vigor Wednesday.

They drew out the lead-ins extra-long on a few songs (on "Africastle," for example), and certain other parts of songs became their own creature while the rhythm drops waited in the wings, growing by the moment. Overemphasized buildups and wailing solos aren't used as a crutch for their live show; they simply produce the best possible version of each song by tweaking the existing elements, and adding weight to the compositions that way. The seamlessness of the production is amazing in its own right: the casual nature of the musicians--calmly adjusting their respective instruments mid-song, even taking time to admire the other members' playing without missing a beat themselves--is a testament to their preparedness and level of musicianship. Drummer John Stanier stood, moved his kit a bit, even left the stage (he was absent for about the first 10 minutes of the encore), only to appear conveniently at the exact moment his forceful drum beating was called for.

Ian Williams played dual keyboards angled sharply away from him, like he was reaching over a set of Olympic parallel bars to simultaneously play different parts of the melody. Dancing among keyboard, guitar, and a pair of laptops, Williams was by far the most animated onstage. Stage right, Dave Konopka was in the zone; the massive spread of pedals and buttons he had to work with received equal treatment between guitar and bass switches, his stoic expression lifted occasionally as he glanced out at the audience, which, as the Neptune has no crowd barrier, was merely inches away. The closeness to the band members (shit, you could have reached out and tuned Konopka's Gibson when he knelt--instrument slung over his shoulder--to hand-adjust a pedal effect or program a loop [which of course happened frequently]) made the concert more sonically accessible as well, as you could see precisely how they cued each each element of each song, piling on the layers until it was the recognizable creature from the record.

There was a video display that flashed images at the rear of the stage; some were synched up with Stanier's bass drum, some wandered more with the other sounds on stage, but all were impressively aligned with the song, never more apparent than when they played pre-recorded footage of the record's guest vocalists singing along with the song. Especially without a focal point proper, this is the kind of band that can't afford to be sloppy or miss beats, and they were on point with every step. It was fun to watch, really, and the crowd was happy to lay back with their bags of popcorn at take it in.

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