Touring their latest release, Bring On the Comets (QRO review), the group married dance and rock in a unique and effective way on Friday, November 16th, at the Blender Theater at Gramercy (QRO venue review). However, when this band of tomorrow went further into their earlier work, the show suffered a bit.
After starting things off on a slow boil with Comets’ opening instrumental, “Euglama”, VHS or Beta hit an early highpoint with the record’s latest single, “Burn It All Down”. Dark and pressing in its dance-stomp, “Burn” had the crowd moving in more than just a shuffle. Comets dominated the first half of the set; “You Got Me” was the only less recent track, from 2004’s Night On Fire. While that number did serve as a crowd favorite, following up nicely was “She Says” and “Fall Down Lightly”. “She Says” got an added impact live, over on Comets, while “Fall Down” delivered a softer, more epic counterpoint to “All Down”.
VHS or Beta playing "Fall Down Lightly" live @ Blender Theater at Gramercy, New York, NY:
Bring On the Comets was a major step up from Night On Fire; unfortunately, that meant that the second half of the set, filled with mostly earlier numbers, didn’t quite match up. Best was definitely “Alive”, a grand, eighties-style call to life that electrified the crowd. In this way, it kind of outshone Fire’s title track, though that, like many older pieces, still touched the loyal crowd. Then there was the disco-jam of the true ‘club track’, “Heaven” (from their 2002 Le Funk EP); whether or not you thought that instrumental went on too long depended entirely on whether or not you were dancing.
VHS or Beta playing "Alive" live @ Blender Theater at Gramercy, New York, NY:
VHS or Beta also know how to go out on a high note, something they did twice at Gramercy. First, they went into the encore break with “Bring On the Comets”, the eponymous record’s own John Hughes-style masterpiece. Those vibes were still shaking when the band finally closed things out with Comets’ unbelievably good first single, “Can’t Believe a Single Word”. Its catchy dance-funk can move even the stoniest of hips, and it left the crowd with a sweet, sweet taste in their mouth.
They may be natives of Louisville, Kentucky, but VHS or Beta look and sound like something from William Gibson’s near-future: hillbilly ‘meshback’ guitars meets high-tech synth, East Asia aping America meets America aping France, all in an organic melding of such inorganic substances. Their sound is more ‘rock-dance’ than ‘dance-rock’; based in the sound of the discotheque, they just happen to use rock ‘n’ roll instruments to get there. On Bring On the Comets, and live, they show that the future isn’t just their destination; it’s their destiny.