Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I wasn't expecting much.
I'd bought the first Fennesz/Sakamoto disc, Sala Santa Cecilia, and found it to be so much attractive fluff, not unlistenable but certainly unmemorable. Hadn't heard anything more recent but had a nagging suspicion things hadn't exactly taken a turn toward the gritty. But the show was free, in the Winter Garden near the World Trade Center site, an easy train jog from home, so off I went.
I'd been to a couple of shows there before, though not in a while. One was Fripp and his League of Artsy Guitarists. That was pretty bad; this may have been worse.
Lot of people, maybe 1,000, kind of dispiriting considering the 100 or 150 that showed up in 2004 when Christian played with Rowe at Tonic. I gather Sakamoto is fairly big in Japan and the crowd may have been 1/3 Japanese. They began each on laptops and that was easily the best part of the show, rising to the level of a lousy eai set, some quiet noise but assembled with little touch or rigor. Even so, I was kind of surprised and wondered if, whatever the quality, the cotton candy aspect of the music was going to be less than I expected.
No such luck. Sakamoto went over to the piano which, for the duration of my stay, he proceeded to play with a ham-handedness and vapidity that would have challenged George Winston. Fennesz largely just provided background fuzz, sugary waftings. Once in a while he picked up his guitar and scratched at it, a relatively welcome sound. Amazingly shapeless music, enough so that, for a while, I attempted to listen to it as a Cagean, "personality-vacant" performance. Maybe it was my lack of ability, but I couldn't even get that to work.
I was more or less trapped in my seating situation, but after about an hour a small aisle opened up and I took advantage to make a hasty exit. Walking over the Vesey St. Bridge back to the PATH station, the roar of traffic on West St. below and the deep chugging of a helicopter above were infinitely preferable to what I'd experienced inside.
I don't care a whit about Sakamoto, but I do hold out hope that this is simply a financial issue for Fennesz and that he returns to creating vibrant music sometime in the future. It'd be mighty sad if he ends up churning out this pap for years to come.