SWIFTNESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS
RICHARD SWIFT AT SPACELAND
I’m a huge fan of the Secretly Canadian record label. They put out some of the most unique, sonically amazing works of the day. When I was doing some research for an upcoming article (you’ll see it someday, don’t worry), I noticed that one of their artists, Richard Swift, was performing at Spaceland—and so I went.
After settling in and surveying the now-filling room, I couldn’t help but notice the brand of humanoids that this evening’s bill (or perhaps it was just the bar in general) attracted: Middleclass, quarter-century-year-old starving students with beards and thick-rimmed, non-prescription glasses, wearing petticoats and scarves (even the men). Basically, the whole audience looked as though they were at Berbati’s Pan in Portland seeing Ratatat and then drove straight to Spaceland because they heard the next big thing was about to unfold.
The first band to go on was a group of moppets that apparently pride themselves on their ability to perform Chinese Firedrills while on stage. The band, Gliss, sauntered through their technically proficient, though vocally abhor-able, set. They are all very skilled in their musical ability; they sure impressed me with their talent at switching instruments song after song after song after song…and then it got boring. The band’s saving grace: a ravishingly beautiful…umm…we’ll call bassist, because that’s what she was playing when I noticed her. It’s a shame, really—that’s the second time in two weeks that I’ve seen an incredibly gorgeous woman playing bass in a mediocre band.
The openers took their leave, and out came Mr. Swift who, at precursory glance, resembles something between folk icon Art Garfunkle and Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez; but thankfully, he sounds like neither. With the first stroke of they keys, I was instantly calmed and even elated by his masterful playing and warm, non-threatening voice. At times, the product was a beautiful cross between Randy Newman and Squeeze.
Jumping from piano to guitar, and then to his keyboard with talk-box, Swift accompanied his audience on an amazing aural journey that ventured through folk, rock, jazz, swing, and even some alt-country without ever bringing the somberness that similar groups inanely bring. Even when his songs were quiet or mellow, he still had the audience bouncing in place, or singing along, and not one sagging or bowed head amongst them. It was actually a great thing seeing that these people weren’t too cool to look happy, as is the norm in most clubs that offer this brand of contemporary music.