Live: Kindness Shows Its Hand At (Le) Poisson Rouge


(le) Poisson Rouge
Thursday, May 17

Better than: You.

Adam Bainbridge, mastermind of UK electro project Kindness, is a cool guy, but he might be just a little too cool for his own good. Last night at (le) Poisson Rouge—where Kindness made its New York City debut—Bainbridge firmly established himself as a powerful and talented stage presence. But he also showed himself to be willing to undermine that charisma with snide, off-the-cuff comments and an arrogant, almost pretentious attitude.

This is not to say that the show wasn’t a good time. Musically, Kindness did perform in a somewhat brilliant fashion. Aside from a few small pitch and rhythm issues sprinkled throughout the set, last night’s show was a 45-minute blast of lush, slippery beats that file in a headspace found somewhere between the lines of chillwave, disco, and dubstep. Playing tracks from World, You Need a Change of Mind (Casablanca/Terrible), Bainbridge wiggled his way around stage, doing his best to bring his record alive, acting more like a conductor than a frontman.

Kindness smartly kicked off with “Cyan,” the album’s lead single, because they must have been aware that it was one of the songs that didn’t translate as well to a live setting. But after a rocky start (maybe they were jet-lagged?), the group launched into a funky, massive version of “Doigsong.” “If I had a secret and I told it to you,” Bainbridge crooned, “Would you tell your brother?” As he bounced around and a guitar strummed, it seemed like waiting for this post-midnight performance was going to be worth it. Bainbridge carried this quiet swagger through the next few songs, not saying much outside of a little banter here and there, and in fact, hardly showing any emotion at all. But after a few select cuts—his solid cover of the Replacements’ “Swingin Party”; the lounge-y “Bombastic,” which started with an unfortunate out of tune a cappella attempt at the opening lines—something happened: I realized that I didn’t believe a god damn thing that this guy did.

Towards the end of a mid-set song, Bainbridge had apparently been so caught up in the music that it’d overtaken him. Shaking uncontrollably, he went to his knees, then all the way down to the ground, practically kissing the floor (while still shaking). Once the music cut out, though, he popped up and, with a sly grin that was one of his first noticeable smiles of the night, commented on how he couldn’t control himself. But he seemed clearly aware that he had most of the crowd fooled. From this moment on, the mood changed. Bainbridge’s confidence brimmed. The quiet, reserved swagger that carried the first half of the performance was exchanged for something a whole lot louder and condescending. Every move he made, whether it was falling to the ground or dancing with the crowd, felt calculated and disingenuous, like he was a little kid trying to play a practical joke. Between songs, he’d offer small quips of dry humor (“We’re from England; that’s why we have teeth like this”) that were funny, yeah, but felt so out of place that it undermined what he spent the first half of the set trying to accomplish as a performer.

The more comfortable he got on stage, the more his attitude came out. After a beautiful, funkadelic rendition of “House” that featured Bainbridge once again stepping into the crowd to dance, he chastised a fan who had been invited to sing along for being out of tune. Everyone laughed—including the fan, of course—but the whole thing just felt uncomfortable. Like, why is this guy being a jerk to the people who love his music so much that they can sing along to a record, which has been out for all of two days?

Musicians, man. Musicians.

Critical bias: World, You Need a Change of Mind is one of my favorite records of the year so far.

Overheard: “I touched his butt. I didn’t squeeze though.”

Random notebook dump: I hope someday to have the opportunity to take pulls from a carafe of white wine while performing.