There was a bad omen during sound check when the “engineer” told the band that the sound would be great if it weren’t for the vocals. LOgO is a great place to grab a beer and converse with a friend. It’s also a fine place to hear a DJ and dance. However, it is not a great place to listen to live bands. Trust me, I grew up playing these concrete boxes with tag-covered walls and PAs that have been pissed on ‘til they short out in a futile death rattle. Cool place to visit, but god help the performers, unless they don’t care.
There was a full, LOgO-sized crowd on-hand to see the show. One thing I recall vividly is a girl sitting on the bar, under the lights, like a side of prime rib in a ghetto buffet. Space constraints are not always pleasurable, but they are actually preferable to catching a show in an empty venue. Also, it must be said that the girl did look good enough to eat.
The two bands on offer were the Youth and the Destroyer and Steely Heart, from Shanghai and Beijing, respectively. The Youth and the Destroyer was a band with a lot of promise, but they needed a bit more muscle to their sound. This band could become terrific with some seasoning, but they are a bit gawky right now, reminiscent of a lame cheetah. They should lock down their rhythms and stage presence to reach full potential. Their breaks are still rump shakable, but their sound could become much fuller.
Steely Heart is a young but vaunted Beijing band. Their lineup includes guitar, bass, synths, drums, and vocals. There is virtually nothing to be found about them on the Intertubes; however, their Myspace page provides some songs and influences (there is also a bit more for Chinese readers to learn about them on the Rock in China Wiki). The influence from Myspace that jumped out at me was the Cribs, whom I really enjoy. Unfortunately, Steely Heart’s Myspace songs did not do the band’s live incarnation (or the Cribs, for that matter) any justice.
Eventually, Steely Heart’s live incarnation also fell short of the band’s promise. When you hear them, you inevitably think of the Strokes, those NYC Kings of Ennui. It seems like Steely Heart, at their apex, could provide the precision and attitude of the Strokes, plus a little more urgency (by they way, as I write this I am listening to Julian Casablancas’ new album, Phrazes for the Young, and I really like it), but the showcased persona lacked the quality of perfection without effort. Just the lack of effort materialized.
The set was as sloppy as can be expected from a lead singer who proclaimed himself the king of the drunkards and who fell down across the drum kit midway through the set (probably not intentionally). The low point of the set was a cover of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed”, whose lyrics were forgotten by the singer, which he shit-eatingly announced before the number and then proceeded to defecate on the track. That was not great.
The rest of the band, however, was solid, offering limitless promise, and still there was something charming about the lead singer’s insouciance and general bumbling. I can see Steely Heart becoming more refined (without losing the don’t-give-a-fuck attitude) and rocking a crowd to the ejaculation point of garage-rock infamy. I’m sure they have played tighter sets in Beijing; otherwise they would not be coming here on a headlining gig.
I guess the theme of the night, between the Youth and the Destroyer and Steely Heart, was unfulfilled promise. One good thing about that kind of show is that, when you witness one, you can always say you knew the bands when.