Concert Review: Ceramic Dog (Shahzad Ismaily, Marc Ribot, Ches Smith) (New York City, 5/5/2013)

On Sunday night, some friends and I caught the record release party for Ceramic Dog‘s new album “Your Turn” at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. I was excited enough to get in line around 6PM to ensure top quality seats, and we ended up at just about the best possible table in the front row. As you can see, it was a pretty good view:


I’ve always liked this venue, both for the room itself (sightlines, sound, etc.) and the consistently interesting and high-quality music they book. I wish they would open a branch here in Boston! (Le Poisson avec des Chaussettes Rouges?) I’m always happy to catch a show there.

There was an opening act, Hubble, who I hadn’t heard before; it turned out to be one man (Ben Greenberg) and a guitar. He had a very interesting and probably difficult technique, but I found the music itself to be a little too repetitive for my taste. I bet he will make some great music in the future, though, since he seems to be approaching the guitar from a unique perspective and has got an interesting sound. Take a listen to some of his music here:

Ceramic Dog walked onstage to a very enthusastic crowd which looked to be close to sold out. Ribot told us they had just gotten back from a week in Japan, where they had managed to stay on New York time and avoid jet lag – that got a laugh from the audience.

They started out with some instrumental pieces from their new album, including “Prayer” and their ferocious cover of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” The latter is always a hit at their shows, I love seeing the reactions of other audience members who haven’t heard them play it before. Some kind person uploaded a nice video of this to Youtube:

After that, they did my favorite track from the new album, “Lies My Body Told Me,” followed by the the title track, “Your Turn,” and the quirkily-titled “Mr. Pants Goes to Hollywood.” ‘Lies’ rocked as hard as ever, with almost tribal-sounding drums. And ‘Mr. Pants’ is always fun to hear live, very upbeat and catchy – it’s a different sound than most of their other music, but it’s a nice break in the set to have something more light-hearted in between some of the heavier pieces. ‘Your Turn’ is another favorite of mine, it just has a great energy to it.

I was happily surprised when they did several of my less-favorite tracks in quick succession, but did versions that I liked way more than I did at previous shows. “Angel on my mind” was really fantastic – starting out slow and sweet and evolving into something big and loud and powerful. (Click here for the video.) Another one in this category was “Bread and Roses,” which is absolutely stunning on the album, but the one time I’d heard it live – a couple of years ago – I didn’t think it worked well at all. This time around they streamlined the vocal parts and cranked things up, and it kicked ass. The power and anger of the protest song really came through. I’m happy to see a band like this continuing to work on and improve their songs in a live setting – you know you’ll never be disappointed when you see them since it always gets better! I grabbed “Bread and Roses” on video myself (although my camera wasn’t terribly happy with the venue lighting, it sounds good!).

For an encore, they broke out a ten minute version of “Digital Handshake,” a track from their debut album, “Party Intellectuals.” I think this is the only piece they have played every single time I’ve seen them (although it’s entirely possible that my memory is faulty on this one). It was one of the better versions I’ve heard them do – it’s always a bit of a noisefest (for better or worse, depending on your taste) but I especially liked some of the guitar work this time.

Now I can start hoping that they’re planning some kind of CD release tour and will come see us in Cambridge again… hey, a girl can dream, right?

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2 Responses to Concert Review: Ceramic Dog (Shahzad Ismaily, Marc Ribot, Ches Smith) (New York City, 5/5/2013)

  1. Roddus says:

    Ribot is just such a good guitarist, I don’t have any of his records but I enjoy some of the stuff he has done with John Zorn. His playing on this video of “Take Five” provoked images of Hendrix for me.

    • Sarah V. says:

      They actually did do a Hendrix cover in this show too… (“The Wind Cries Mary”)

      The new Ceramic Dog album, “Your Turn”, is not a bad place to start if you are looking to get into his non-Zorn material. And maybe “Silent Movies” to get another aspect of his guitar personality too.

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