Concert Review: The Bad Plus playing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (2/15/2013)

I went to see another new-to-me band at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art this week – The Bad Plus, a jazz trio made up of Reid Anderson (bass), Ethan Iverson (piano), and Dave King (drums). The group is known for doing oddball covers of iconic music (click here to hear their cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” for example) and I was intrigued to see that they had decided to take on Stravinsky’s (in)famous “Rite of Spring.”

They began the show with a very dramatic opening – musically, I could hear a thudding heartbeat, and then a spare, spacious solo piano playing a repeating theme, growing more and more complex over the course of several minutes. Visually, we saw a darkened stage, the musicians only seen as silhouettes, dark curtains covering all the windows. There was a translucent curtain between the audience and the band, on which they screened abstract videos. (Due to the translucent nature of the curtain, you could also see the video projected on the back wall behind the band.)


Around the five-minute mark, the band exploded into full power, the drums crashing in, and they also raised the curtain and started turning some lights on. The overall effect was quite dramatic:


Their version of “The Rite of Spring” was 40 minutes long, alternating between passages both energetic and subdued. To me, the energetic passages sounded like jazz and the subdued passages sounded like classical music, which is a little odd – but also kind of cool, to be able to weave disparate genres together so seamlessly. I liked the more classical-sounding parts the best, the light touch on the drums, delicate bass and the beautiful piano were just perfect.

The second half of the concert was made up of their own material, including “Pound for Pound,” “Wolf Out,” “Re-Elect This” and “Everywhere You Turn.” The latter, which was the encore, was probably my favorite piece of the night. It was beautiful, mellow, and a nice way to end the evening (for me, anyway – the band was going on to play a whole second set at 9:30!).

The band is touring the U.S. and Europe over the next few months (click here for tour dates), I definitely recommend checking them out.

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