I don’t know what’s going on with Mother Nature, but the weather in New York City has been nothing short of WTF lately. Last week the temperatures hit the 80s, but just last night I’m pretty sure I shivered my way to dinner in the 50s. Since it’s socially unacceptable to wear my fleece blanket as a dress, my cousin and I opted to grab a hot steaming bowl of Vietnamese soup to warm us up before the show. It hit the spot.
We walked over to the venue, Santos Party House, an always stuffy and packed place in Chinatown, and waded through the crowd towards the front. The closer it got to 10pm, the more people tried to weasel their way into every nook and cranny of the room (pet peeve of mine, especially since I’m short and spend most of my time at concerts thinking, “No, no, don’t do it, don’t stand in front me, tall man! Don’t you dare.”).
If you’re unfamiliar with Tom Krell, AKA How To Dress Well, here’s the gist: he makes beautiful and utterly devastating, R&B-infused electronic music. His 2010 debut album Love Remains was brilliantly refreshing, and his latest record, Total Loss, which just dropped last month on Acephale Records, will easily make it onto my Top 10 of 2012.
That being said, I’m always wary about seeing electronic projects live. I’ve witnessed my fair share of disappointing, flat performances and had far too many “what the heck am I watching?” reactions to “DJ” sets. Fortunately, How To Dress Well did not let me down. Actually, he blew me away. His vocals alone, frail but so heavenly and pure when done in falsetto, are absolutely captivating. He gives famed R&B superstars a run for their money. I know for a fact that during most of his songs I just stood with my jaw ajar completely in awe and I can’t remember the last time I was so moved by someone’s singing.
Continue the review after the jump..
He performed a number of Total Loss tracks including “Cold Nites,” “Running Back,” & It Was U,” “Ocean Floor For Everything,” and as well as a cover of Xiu Xiu‘s “Clowne Towne”. But he isn’t the type to jump around the stage or have theatrical gimmicks up his sleeve. He was just a thin, tall silhouette against a backdrop of ever-changing pictures that were projected onto a screen. Appropriately, he looked ghostlike up there, moving to-and-fro, grabbing his two mics with conviction, but also as though he was caressing them.
And when he opened his mouth to let out a phrase or run, the man was truly stricken with emotion, like he was in his own world, possessed by passion. At the same time, he also looked so comfortable; it was as though he felt deeply no matter what — whether he was singing in front of hundreds of onlookers or in the comfort of his own bedroom. To behold both the legitimate sincerity and power of How To Dress Well is arresting, like a spiritual experience. And I, like everyone in the venue that night, was more than happy to show up and worship.