Live Review: Fanfarlo with Double Ghost at Red Palace, Washington DC – 29th October 2011

By on Friday, 4th November 2011 at 2:00 pm

After a very good 2009 and giving away their debut album ‘Reservoir’ for a mere dollar, Fanfarlo disappeared to write the tricky second album. They resurfaced this autumn, first with the teaser ‘Replicate’ (In the Post here) and then the single for ‘De.con.struc.tion’, released in mid-October. Both of these new offerings still sound like Fanfarlo, but with a twist, the twist being a look forward toward electronics. Over the last couple years, several high-profile bands have gone this way (Keane, Editors and the Twilight Sad, just to name three). But the only folk-pop band of recent memory to do the same is Noah and the Whale, whom I think did an admirable job with ‘Last Night on Earth’ without sacrificing quality or their credibility (review of the album here). This sold out Fanfarlo show would prove whether the new direction was a success.

Their opening band was Double Ghost, an ambient music-playing trio from Brooklyn. This isn’t my thing at all; if I’m at home and in bed and I want to hear something soothing before I close my eyes, this might be the thing. But I’m at a gig and I want to be entertained. That said, their sound reminded me of Orbital (‘Fluffy White Clouds’ in particular, as there were voiceovers during their set about the importance of dreams by what I gathered were psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. of that ilk) and like the Chems, they didn’t stop between tracks, preferring to segue from one langourous track to another. Also, their lighting didn’t change the entire time: the band was covered in a red pallour for their set, while a trippy film ran on the screen behind them. (We later found out that the film was made with putting liquids into an aquarium.)

Like Noah and the Whale, Fanfarlo have a sizable young female fanbase just dying to see them play. They are down to five members now, and Simon Balthazar has swapped his clarinet for saxophone, but appearances-wise, things look the same like 2 years ago when I first saw them. Of course they played old favourites (‘Comets’, ‘Harold T. Wilkins or How To Wait For A Very Long Time’, ‘Atlas’ as a duet between Balthazar and multi-instrumentalist Cathy Lucas, etc.) but everything sounded…different. At one point I thought the problem was a mistuned guitar of Balthazar’s (a couple songs sounded sharp compared to his lead vocal, which sounded in tune) but maybe the issue was the adding in of synths or replacing piano with synth in the set. This DC show is one of the first live shows the band has done since announcing their return, so maybe it has to do with rustiness?

The new songs like ‘Shiny Thing’ sounded great and ‘Replicate’ in particular was brilliant. The band was also visibly at ease during the performance, perhaps because they had sold out here before. At the start of their set, Balthazar placed a chair backwards in the back of the stage, which didn’t make sense; the chair came into play later when he played piano and used the back of the chair as an impromptu high seat, him quipping, “one day we will be able to afford TWO chairs!” There was a lot to love about this gig: the encore of ‘Finish Line’ (as voted on by fans) and ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’ was faultless. But the new material might need more rehearsal and for sure, once everyone has the new album (purported to be out in February 2012) we’ll all be able to tell for certain whether this new phase of Fanfarlo is working or not.

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One Response

4:32 pm
12th May 2014

I saw you on Good Day LA yesterday mnrinog!! That was so exciting!! 🙂 I never see authors I actually like on that show! They are always authors for biographies, or research books! It was great seeing a YA author on the show! 🙂

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