Good Friday felt appropriate for tUnE-yArDs’ inaugural Florida appearance. An on-form night for Merrill Garbus & Co makes for a very good Friday indeed.
It’s now six years since we were introduced to Bird-Brains, an album that generated an instant “What the…!” response from fans and critics alike. tUnE-yArDs veterans could therefore have been excused a certain reservation that tonight’s gig might lack the intimacy of the early days when Garbus was a one-woman bizness with only a ukulele and a loop pedal for company. It is inevitable that with her latest touring backline there would be a certain compromise, but the reality was that the more than compatible pairing has added new depths to the classic tUnE-yArDs formula. Reassuringly, there’s still the uke; still the loop pedals; still the hypnotic drum beats and soaring vocals; and of course it’s still all underpinned by the naïve rumble of Nate Brenner’s bass.
“Bizness” and “Gangsta” are familiar friends, faithfully executed. “Water Fountain” elicits the strongest outpouring of the evening, a frenetic behemoth of a tune that builds and builds. It is also the track responsible for bringing a new body of listeners to the tUnE-yArDs playground, Garbus playing the Pied Piper for a disenfranchised generation. However, it would still be fair to say the adoration is most palpable during the minimalist, deconstructed beauty of “Powa” and “Fiya.”
There are some regrettable absences, perhaps most evidently the joyful “You Yes You” and the hypnotic incantation of “Rocking Chair” that would have been a prime candidate for a capella layering, but this is an occupational hazard when you’ve amassed three albums of robust material under your Day-Glo belt. Orlando was left in no doubt that the warped zeitgeist that inhabits Merrill Garbus is very much alive and kicking; once again raising the bar without throwing away the innovation and integrity that first caused us to stand and listen. During “Gangsta,” Garbus asserts she’s “singing from her heart but she’ll never be a rockstar”; yet it’s all too obvious the lid can’t be kept on the tUnE-yArDs powder keg much longer. All of which causes a huge dilemma as a large piece of me still wants to claim tUnE-yArDs for myself, a secret pleasure that has to be sought out rather than being reduced to three minutes of instant radio fodder. So, how about it? Can you keep a secret?
Stop That Man
Wait for a Minute
Time of Dark