Friday, May 6, 2011

Photos: The Fiery Furnaces @ Rockwood Music Hall

The Fiery Furnaces @ Rockwood Music Hall, May 5th, 2011
Photos: Chris; Review: Jennifer Harmon

Brother-sister duo The Fiery Furnaces kicked off their petite May tour this week with two shows in New York City at Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 2. We were lucky enough to be able to catch them on their second night at the Lower East Side spot.

Inside the dimly lit venue, fans moved quickly to claim their designated seating spots. A handful of tables with candles and menus were set up directly in front of the stage. The intimate space, which can hold about 150 people, filled rapidly with concertgoers. Some even climbed the winding staircase to enjoy a different view of the scene.

The lovely Eleanor Friedberger appeared before the audience adorned in a Native American style dress of yellow, orange and red hue stripes. With microphone in hand and her shaggy-haired sibling Matthew at the piano, she didn’t waste any time beginning the set with “Smelling Cigarettes” from 2005’s 41-minute EP.

“Very much vodka and too much tequila: those are the ways I learned to deal,” she sang to the crowd.

“I’m just drunk enough to open the window, yell out gruff: Don’t you key that brand-new Camry.”

Eleanor’s energetic vocals and clever lyrics immediately hypnotized the crowd in combination with her brother’s smooth, soulful piano playing. Her emotion-soaked voice and angst-lace lyrics pack a powerful punch with her master storytelling skills.

She seemed a bit nervous during a few brief moments in between songs, touching her dress or tapping her fingers together in anticipation of the next tune.

Throughout the show, the Fiery Furnaces performed tracks selected throughout their somewhat prolific discography. The show, however, demonstrated a few stumbles from the Brooklyn natives on the second night of the tour. On a number of occasions during the set, Matt stopped playing to cough because of a horrible cold. At one point he had to excuse himself and leave the room. “I hope he’s going to be okay … Can you still play?” she asked her brother when he rejoined her on stage.

Eleanor jumbled some of her lyrics on more than one occasion during the gig. But it didn’t seem to hurt the show, because she was so invested in the heartfelt words that came out of her mouth.

“I married a man/he was the plague of my life and I wish I was single again,” the smiling songstress declared on EP’s opener “Single.” It was an interesting rendition on the original synth-heavy version.

“I married another and he was the devils grandfather and I wish I was single again.”

One thing is for sure – the siblings continued on and delivered a moving and entertaining show full of melodic music along with their signature garage blues elements.

Eleanor handled the majority of the vocal duties last night, but it was marvelous to hear Matt sing with her on at least six songs. It did not matter whether he was sick or not - the two complemented one another perfectly.

While the album Blueberry Boat received a lot of flack from critics in recent years, it was indeed a unique and worthy experience to hear the duo perform the nine-minute track by the same name at Rockwood Music Hall. This quirky multi-layered tune is completely different than anything else in the Furnaces’ arsenal of music.

Other highlights from the night included powerful renditions of “Evergreen,” and “Even in the Rain.”

“I guess we must have done a lot of kissing/Must have known not what we were missing,” she sang sweetly to the audience on “Even in the Rain.”

If Matt is able to perform, the Fiery Furnaces play Philadelphia tonight at World Café Live. Also, be sure to catch Eleanor Friedberger’s solo album, Last Summer, which will be out July 12th on Merge Records. As we mentioned yesterday, Eleanor will be performing a solo show on June 18th at St. Celia’s Church as part of L Magazine’s Northside Festival, and tickets for that show are on sale.

Full set of photos from last night’s show are below…