The Alone Together Tour, featuring three key members of some of the most important bands of recent years, kicked off Saturday night at Dilettante near downtown Los Angeles. The bill featured Colin Stetson, avant grade solo saxophonist and touring (and studio) member of Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, Sarah Neufeld, part of Arcade Fire’s string section, and Gregory Rogove, pianist in Devendra Banhart’s band.
The three extremely talented musicians packed downtown LA artspace Dilettante with LA’s absolutely artsiest. Lack of alcohol, an anti-cell phone policy, and the preference of having the crowd sit on the giant rug on the floor absolutely suited these musicians who play some pretty unconventional music for a place like Los Angeles.
Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld matched the violin flourishes of her main band by performing about twenty minutes worth of her own compositions. Rogove’s set consisted of original piano pieces played against a video montage of his fellow musicians’ home movie interpretations of his music. Naufeld at one point joined him on a stage for a an engaging two-person piano duet.
Colin Stetson then hit the stage with his menacing, century-old bass Saxophone that had been lurking on stage all evening. Since we last spoke to Stetson way back in October 2010, he was in the midst of touring with (and concurrently opening for) Arcade Fire, in between solo albums, and just beginning work on what eventually because Bon Iver’s pseudo-eponymous sophomore album released last year. Jump eighteen months later and Stetson released not only one of the finest albums of 2011, New History Warfare Volume II: Judges, but quickly followed up with an excellent two-song, twenty-minute EP Those Who Didn’t Run (both released on Constellation Records). He capped off an exciting 2011 by being chosen by Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum to play his curated All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in England late last year.
Stetson was once again in top form Saturday night. Opening songs “Awake on Foreign Shores” and “Judges” from Judges resonated loudly and gripped the audiences’ focus as much as Stetson’s bass saxophone sounded heavy. Even after admitting a bit of nervousness that his songs are “harder” to play than Bon Iver songs, Stetson still managed to pull of his patented miracle of creating beautiful music consisting of bass, melodic harmonies, all kinds of percussion, and audible humming all using solely his saxophones. He brought more life to his songs by divulging some background information on some of them (including the one about the lonely whale who sings songs no other whales understand), enriching both the music and the undeniable intellectual atmosphere.
Stetson and Neufeld record a live Daytrotter Session today in Los Angeles and then continue the West Coast Alone Together tour tomorrow in San Francisco along with Rogove. Tour dates:
May 1 - San Francisco @ Hotel Utah
May 3 - Portland @ Mississippi Studios
May 4 - Seattle @ Columbia City
May 5 - Vancouver @ Western Front
May 6 - Vancouver @ Western Front