New York’s Blonde Redhead grace one of London’s most beautiful venues, Islington’s Union Chapel. As the name suggest, the setting is magnificent – a Victorian gothic 17th century church, and highly appropriate for Blonde Redhead’s brooding breed of psychedelic rock. In their career spanning almost 20 years – with Blonde Redhead’s first single being released in 1993 – Blonde Redhead have accumulated a diverse and hard hitting back catalogue, which at Tuesday, September 6th’s show at the Union Chapel shone through.
Although recent shows have been in promotion of their latest release, last year’s Penny Sparkle (QRO review), Blonde Redhead continue to play a mix of their material from their back catalogue. Although their fan base is mixed of both long running fans and newer faces, it’s clear to see that even though their material is highly consistent in terms of quality, but differing in style and boundaries, that their material from the album 23 (QRO review) is most highly recognized. Material from this period is often thought of as the highlight of the bands career, appearing on high profile series such as British teen soap Skins and U.S. medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, notable charting positions for the band in the U.K. and U.S., alongside a high profile supporting slot with fellow New Yorker quartet Interpol (QRO photos, on bill with Blonde Redhead). Tracks such as "23" and "SW" gauged the biggest reaction from the crowd, instantly recognizable. Likewise, the band themselves seemed to engage deeply with these tracks, coming from a period of a heavier, more droning, guitar based sound, a slight departure from their earlier work more fitting with their common label of dream pop.
More in tune with their more common label of ‘dream pop’ was the night’s rendition of "Magic Mountain", taken from 2004’s Misery Is a Butterfly, highlighting the fragility and femininity of Makino’s vocals. Composed of Japanese musician Kazu Makino and twins Amedeo and Simone Pace, born in Milan, raised in Montreal, and after a short stint in Boston now reside in New York, Blonde Redhead call on influences from their cultural experiences and wide musical backgrounds producing a creative amalgamation of futuristic nu-gaze, but the sheer nature of their music and long spanning career ensures the band transcends any traditional gentrification, making Blonde Redhead’s music all that more unique and engaging. The live presentation of the band and commitment in performance pulls the audience in, as particularly front woman Makino tends to lose herself in the music, and even in a seated venue such as the Union Chapel, regardless of material new or older, the crowd seemed intently drawn to the band through their powerfully exquisite form of magical musical tales.
Perhaps a church isn’t the most rock ‘n’ roll venue, but the darkened heights of the intricate architecture and creaky pews all added to the sinister melodic charm of Blonde Redhead. Frontwoman Makino commented, "I don’t know why we’re still so nervous after all these years" – and she couldn’t be more right, with a full standing ovation from the crowd after their closing track, beaming faces from a crowd genuinely floored – maybe it wasn’t so dark after all.