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The Bad Plus @ The Back Room at Colectivo

Dec. 15, 2016

Dec. 16, 2016
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the bad plus
Photo credit: Kellen Nordstrom
While it’s hard to argue with results, The Bad Plus walked a fine line to where they are now. Establishing themselves with a series of alternative tributes, including everything from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Aphex Twin’s “Flim,” done up in a classically jazzy style, there were some obvious rewards, as well as some equally obvious risks. On one hand, these renditions were undeniably fun and shareable, and arguably tried to reintroduce the idea of the standard into American popular music. On the other, they could have easily locked the band into an uncomfortable gimmick, forever known as that jazz combo cover band. Impressively though, they’ve done a rather masterful job of using these versions to draw attention to their original material and vice versa, thanks to a sense of balance that was on full display at Colectivo’s Back Room Thursday night.

This latest Pabst Foundation space has undergone some much-needed tweaks since its first shows, with a reconsidered stage setup and seating arrangement, but they haven’t had much luck alleviating its claustrophobic feel. As the audience, almost exclusively white people who all seemed to share the same optometrist, settled into the last of the seats and the band took the stage, people continued to filter in, only to find themselves milling around the bar or occupying any other available space. (Enjoy the feeling of someone constantly lurking just over your shoulder? Have I got the venue for you!). Without being a fire marshal or anything, by the time they started setting up extra folding chairs in the already existing bottleneck leading to the main exit, leaving only a narrow path, it seemed just a tad questionable as far as safety codes are concerned.

But even if the room itself needs some improvements, and even if you could hear just as well outside it for the price of a cup of coffee, The Bad Plus themselves delivered a mellow, enjoyable set that wove together originals, such as the opener “Prehensile Dream,” with selections from their latest album, this year’s It’s Hard, including Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and Barry Manilow’s tacky classic “Mandy.” Sure, the audience could easily have had more space standing, but by the time the band wrapped up their relatively short set (the first of two that night) with a rendition of “I Walk the Line” that split the musical difference between Johnny Cash’s country classic and the iconic lullaby “You are My Sunshine,” nobody was paying any attention to that. Nor did they care who originally wrote the songs they were hearing.

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