It is usually easy to predict the kind of crowd you're going to be sweating, dancing, day-dreaming, and/or screaming next to at an upcoming concert. Musicians across the globe generally cater to a trait-specific crowd. Of course, one of those traits should automatically be the enjoyment of the performance on stage. But whether the common theme in these specific fans is age, location, socio-economic class or an obvious amount of under-eyeliner, there is almost always another common theme that ties an audience together.
Some contemporary musicians can pull off a great show with a bar-stool, a single set of vocal chords, and an acoustic guitar. In those cases, what you see is what you get, and standing in the crowd can be a little ho-hum. The lack of variation may seem insignificant if you know the artist or the song, or if the show is accompanied by a sit-down meal and tap-acquired beer. It is always hard to guarantee that new fans will be entertained. Even with the rawest, purest talents across the globe, the in-awe attitude only lasts so long if you can't sing along to the songs of the sedentary acoustic sessions. Fortunately, The Heavy did not fit the credentials of a potentially dull showthey proved to be the polar oppositeand I was fortunate enough to experience one of the best shows of my life.
I had never heard of the venue for the show. But in New York City, the list of unknown concert halls goes on and on. Plus, a good band is never afraid to play on a random rooftop or practice in a stranger's apartment. National Sawdust was the name of the venue. An open bar lined the narrow hallways that lead into the intimate performance room. The familiar album art for The Heavy's highly anticipated April release projected itself on the walls behind all the instruments just waiting for the artists to release their sound.
Conversation filled the room until a brass instrument and a man in tow, lead the way for the ensemble about to take the stage. From left to right, I can still envision the art of the stage placement. The aesthetic pleasure of each artist's standings on the stage was most likely an unintentional event. Either way, the artists took the stage, and from left to right I saw the band take shape.
A small, but mighty brass section backed by three men appeared on stage first, and within minutes the rest surfaced the lifted performance platform. An electric guitarist staggered slightly more towards the front of the brass men. A drummer and his kit that redefined live and backing percussion was centered against the back wall, allowing the album art projection to cover his flesh. Three more microphones with back-up singers who I could already tell could come close to stealing the stage from that back right corner, practicing their snaps and claps. The keyboardist and bassist played low as those musicians usually do, and they dotted the stage to give Kelvin Swaby space for heading up the performance and provoking dropped jaws across the audience.
On its own, Kelvin's voice perfectly fits the fusion of blues, rock and R&B. But as a performer Kelvin, is the new idol for pure and fast Rock and Roll. This man was born to perform. Despite the huge anticipation for Hurt and the Merciless (the band's upcoming record due out 4/1) and other venues on the upcoming tour, National Sawdust could only hold about 137 guests. The Heavy alternated between tracks that they pride in being their classics (from albums in the earlier 2000s) and not-yet released songs off of Hurt and the Merciless.
Kelvin valued the crowds participation. "Turn Up," which Swaby heavily hinted to be a key song in the televised March Madness events had the crowd in an uproar. Before the jazzy keyboard cued the crowd in, Swaby made sure the audience knew that whenever a band member had their hands in the air, we should all do the same. After the first song, every track had the audience dancing. This Tuesday was the night that an English band in long-time hibernation, let an audience in Brooklyn, New York out of a simple cave, and into the world of Rock and Roll performance.
The energy was as if the audience expected to go enjoy the bar and the lights, and nod their heads to some good tunes. But The Heavy changed their minds and glasses from the bar were shattered on the floor as twenty-somethings and ages above exited with the adrenaline of the closing track "How You Like Me Now" rushing through their veins, April 1st marked on their calendars in anticipation and the newly-nostalgic discography of The Heavy on their list to download forever.