Show Recap: Idle Warship, Res and Talib Kweli drop anchor at Yoshi’s
January 7, 2012
Idle Warship landed ashore in San Francisco last night. The duo of Res and Talib Kweli are now in the middle of a two-night, four show stay at Yoshi’s Jazz Club, which is a bit ironic since they seem to be playing every genre but jazz. Idle, along with the live band they brought largely intact from Talib’s Gutter Rainbows tour, also seem like they’re warming up for a summer festival tour, doing the pick-a-genre-from-each-column approach to music that fits like a glove at Coachella, Lollapalooza, or any other buffet-style all-you-can-listen music festival. (Doesn’t hurt that their set is about an hour long, just as long as your typical festival slot.) Of course, plenty of hip-hop is offered thanks to Talib Kweli’s presence, but if you expect R&B from Res, you’re just typecasting.
Actually, there’s a good argument to be had that her style very much so is rock. When watching her live, her attachment to Fleetwood Mac is probably the most obvious, manifested tonight by her performance of “Dreams” which she also performed on the Gutter Rainbows tour. But while the performances had plenty of elements of funk, house, and hip-hop, the kind of energy that Res likes to use you could hear in people like Stevie Nicks, Anne Lennox (hinted by the bit of Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams” that they played) and Kelly Clarkson.
Point in case came with their set-ender, the recently videoed “Laser Beams”, which came down like a thunderbolt. That track was unfiltered, unadulterated arena rock that overwhelmed the small, 400 capacity auditorium—but in a good way. The track, with it’s shuffling drums and climbing bass accompanying Res’ soaring vocals, invited the crowd to start moshing, which it might had happened if the median age of the room was 5-10 years younger. When Talib said Idle wasn’t hip-hop, he wasn’t kidding, this was a pure rock. It lit a fire with the crowd, and at 11:30pm, I heard probably the loudest encore call I’ve heard at the usually staid Yoshi’s.
That’s not to say Idle is a rock band, however. Between Talib’s raps and the 80 bar freestyle toward the end of the set, there’s plenty of hip-hop of the live band variety to be had. And there was just enough of Talib’s catalog on display to satisfy the crowd, slanted towards the tracks with female vocals to take advantage of Res’ presence, like “I Try” and “The Blast”. The band itself tended toward post-hip-hop funk, as when revealed when the band members did their solos. Case in point was Daru Jones’s drum solo—his rolling snare roll that hit a crescendo every eight bars was a straight hip-hop loop, layering on an extra track of rhythm from the high-hats, cymbals and kick drums after every iteration.
And while the one-hour set had plenty of omissions from Idle’s already small catalog of songs (most notably absent is “System Addict” with Jean Grae’s sarcastically sneering lines), what they had ran the gamut from their mixtape days (when Graph Nobel was part of the lineup) to the new LP. Other than “Lazer Beams”, the other standout from their latest LP they did play was “Beautifully Bad”, a quieter song with a solemn piano loop and Talib breaking into song (which I’m still undecided about). Res however applied the appropriate pathos into her vocals, quivering when introduced but goes full-throated by the time she gets to the chorus.
The night ended with the demanded encore, which largely consisted of Talib’s better known songs, including “Get By” to close the stage. Overall, not a bad show at all, and something you could look forward seeing if not on this tour, then at a summer festival near you sometime.
Idle Warship will play twice more tonight at Yoshi’s, at 8pm and 10pm, before moving on with their tour, which also features two more Northern California performances in Fairfax and Sacramento.