One weekend, two concerts, two wildly entertaining performances. Musically speaking, Kishi Bashi and Kiss would seem to have nothing in common. I'd argue, though, that, as live acts, they share a lust for showmanship.
No, Kishi Bashi didn't burp up blood or shoot sparks from the neck of his violin. He blew minds all the same.
His concert Friday at The NorVa in Norfolk was a dazzling display of technological mastery and musical invention. The singer and violin player -- performing solo -- used looping pedals and sound-altering devices to layer soaring string parts, human beat box percussion and impassioned vocals.
Kishi Bashi grew up in Norfolk and is currently using the city as home base. His career is clearly taking off, though, and Friday's show illustrates why. Entertaining a rock 'n' roll crowd as a solo act can be a tough assignment. He handled it with grace and good humor.
"Norfolk, are you loving me so far?" he shouted at one point. The night's crowd of several hundred answered with shouts of support.
Kishi Bashi was originally set to open for Passion Pit at The NorVa, but that group postponed its performance, allowing the opening act to rise to the top of the bill. Good timing, because Kishi Bashi is about to head out on his first headlining tour.
Highlights from Friday's show included tunes from his solo album "151a" including "I Am the Antichrist to You" and "Manchester" as well as a cover of a Beirut tune. Another memorable moment came when the performer pulled out a pan flute for the freaky, reggae-tinged "Just the Tip," which sounded as weird and tuneful as the best MIA tracks.
(Kishi Bashi at The NorVa Friday, July 20, 2012. Photo by Sam McDonald)
Saturday night in Virginia Beach, veteran glam rockers Kiss (or at least what's left of them) stormed the Farm Bureau Live amphitheater proving that they've still got ammunition enough to thrill.
While Kiss concerts are full of ritual at this point (Gene Simmons loses a mouthful of blood in the rafters, Paul Stanley rides a cable over the heads of the audience and rocks a song on a miniature stage near the soundboard, confetti fills the air when the band plays its finale), improved staging and surprising enthusiasm from both Simmons and Stanley made the show better than your average explosion of light, color and guitar noise.
"Tonight, it's not about us, it's about you!" Stanley shouted at the beginning of the show. That's a strange sentiment coming from a guy dressed in studded leather, black feathers and silver boots. It made sense, in a way, though.
Stanley and Simmons (along with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, playing the parts of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, respectively) clearly are devoted to keeping the Kiss tradition of visual and audio excess.
I thought the Kiss show I saw at Hampton Coliseum in October of 2009 was somewhat stale. Not so with Saturday's extravaganza. Better staging, more energy and some fun new effects kept me entertained deep into the set.
Jets of flame were tightly choreographed to the music. A giant video screen behind the band beamed crisp, clean images of the monsters rocking and posing on stage.
It's possible that playing with openers Motley Crue pushed the boys into playing with more intensity, too. Competition can't hurt. And the Crue did give Kiss a run for its money in terms of visual over stimulation.
Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee played upside down thanks to a rollercoaster-like loop. Exotic dancers struck lewd poses while dangling from wires, flames and lasers shot from the stage at key moments.