MisterWives may be best experienced live
Sinclair Cambridge, Cambridge, Mass., June 21, 2017
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
MisterWives is best experienced live. That was the bottom line following an engaging, upbeat evening of music from the pop band.
The New York City-based group just released its sophomore effort, "Connect the Dots," a good dance music effort, but it lacked the pop (as in snap, crackle and) of the concert setting. That was the case from the start with "Chasing This" from "Connect..." Guitarist Marc Campbell and multi-colored hair bassist William Hehir were stage front on top of speakers when lead singer Mandy Lee hit the stage, propelling the song into new heights not reached on the recorded version.
MisterWives packed far more punch into "Drummer Boy" live as well. The recorded version simply sounded a bit too produced and frothy. Live, it all came together with a soaring quality to the song punctuated by Lee's delivery and far more potent chorus.
And Lee proved to be the perfect front woman for the duration of the nearly 75-minute set. Colorful in outfit with fishnet stockings, pink high top sneakers, a pink-toned jacket and a bunch of colorful hairclips, one wondered if Lee would be more about a fashion statement than the music.
She quickly dispelled that notion. Lee was a tour de force, charismatic without being over the top (in fact, she seemed surprised a number of times that the crowd responded as enthusiastically as it did. Not quite sure why since the show sold out weeks ago, but she sure smiled a lot with genuine glee).
Lee was a warm, uplifting personality with a few comments to the crowd urging them to be positive as well. To say, she owned the stage might have been an understatement as she easily bounded about the stage, crouching low, leaning over and easily connecting. At the end, she even went into the stage, but that was not all that necessary to win over fans.
Misterwives' musical diversity came through clearly, throwing in reggae tones in a few songs, offering some softer passages. Trumpeter Jesse Blum and sax man Mike Murphy gave the basis dance-oriented beats more diversity, and Bowler often set a muscular beat. For the closing "Our Own House," Lee, Campbell and Hehir were belting drums in unison at the front of the stage, sometimes mimicking the drumming of Etienne Bowler. Powerfully good and a nice way to conclude the night.
Relying heavily on "Connect the Dots," only released a month ago, could have been a tall order for some bands, but the fans were fully engaged, singing along, not even needing prompting.
Of course, it helped to have Lee and cohorts leading the way, showing that they are a potent live force.
As legit as MisterWives was live, that could not be said for The Greeting Committee, who preceded the headliners. Lead singer Addison Sartino appeared to be trying too hard, hitting the stage with pink glasses and jumping up and down to the hard-edged punky music (this was not a punk band) as if it was the right thing to do.
Not only did guitarist Brandon Yangmi (he did play some good lead, recalling the Talking Heads sound a bit) crowd surf the stage on his back while playing, but Sartino later also joined the crowd. The songs weren't particularly engaging either.
For something completely different, consider opening act Bell the Band. The name was a bit of a misnomer because the only band member who appeared was lead singer Caitlin Bell. But she was more than up to the task with a short 20-minute set of folk/Americana, the type of music she said she grew up with.
Playing a big Gretsch guitar that seemed almost as big as she was, Bell sang with a sense of purpose and conviction in songs that made you want to listen. The guitar provided texture for the songs. And Bell deserved credit for encountering a crowd that actually was willing to give an unknown opener with a totally different musical style from the headliners a fair shake. Bell was worthy even if she was a band of one.