Live: Little Joy Get Their Bass Player Back at Bowery Ballroom

Little Joy Bowery Ballroom Tuesday, June 23

Introducing Little Joy's final number at the Bowery Ballroom last night, multi-instrumentalist Binki Shapiro invited up some "very special New York friends." They turned out to be Regina Spektor and the Strokes' Fab Moretti, a sometime Little Joy bass player currently sitting out the band's current tour in order to record with his main outfit. Both sang the chorus to the band's most joyous song, "Brand New Start." Spektor looked like a shy NYU grad student pulled onstage, despite having headlined a massive Beacon Theatre show earlier in the month for which Little Joy opened. Moretti was less reserved, draping his Fonzie jacket over singer Rordrigo Amarante and signaling flames over Amarante, mock Hendrix-at-Monterey.

45 minutes in, the show was already over. To be fair, Little Joy only has one half-hour album to its name, released last year. The side project took shape in 2007 when Moretti spent some time in California with Amarante, who is a songwriter/ guitarist for the Brazilian group Los Hermanos. They enlisted multi-instrumentalist and singer Binki Shapiro, and recorded their breezy debut in L.A.

Amarante's vocals, live, have a certain muffled quality not unlike those of the Strokes' Julian Casablancas, whose presence, along with that of the rest of the Strokes, occasionally leans pretty heavily over Little Joy. (At times--say, during "No One's Better Sake"--it felt "Last Night" or "Repitlia" were coming right up.) Amarante took more chances when he sang in Portuguese. He emerged alone with his hollowbody electric fifteen minutes after the house lights dimmed--leaving everyone to wait in the dark for what felt like a hell of a lot longer than it actually was--to play "Evoporar," the closing track off the band's album. He botched the first few chords, but found his footing, carefully pronouncing every syllable to words no one could understand. Then the band emerged, Amarante exclaiming, "There they are!"

Despite the six musicians onstage (including openers the Dead Trees' Todd Dahlhoff and Matt Borg on bass and guitar, respectively), the songs were faithful to the band's laid-back minimalism. Shapiro, dressed in a tight summer dress and downing beer from a bottle, sang "Unattainable" accompanied by a clean-toned electric. Later, the full band kicked in, running briskly through their short catalogue, covering the Mamas and the Papas' "Midnight Voyage," Shapiro putting a psychedelic twist on her Motown-meets-Marianne-Faithful vocal delivery. She switched between keyboard, shakers and other instruments, and handled most of the banter, announcing at one point that the band had finally come to the end of a month-long tour. "This is our last show," Shapiro said. "Well, we go to Mexico, but that doesn't count."


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