Sunday night at the 9:30 club, the Iowa thrash-metal band Slipknot set out to prove that its exploding popularity, including a just-certified-gold debut album, is no gimmick.
Wearing their signature jumpsuits and masks, the nine musicians violently jerked their torsos, their movements resembling those of deranged janitors frantically cleaning the stage. Throughout the one-hour performance, Slipknot proved adept at the kind of howling, head-banging show that the predominantly male audience desired.
The three guitars, two percussionists, drummer, deejay and sampler created a turbulent din. The roar of such charmers as "Scissors," "Wait and Bleed" and "Spit It Out" was propelled by the guttural bellow of singer Corey Taylor, who also served as ringmaster. The frontman swore more in the first 15 minutes than some people do in a lifetime, burned an advertisement featuring a member of Korn and exchanged middle-finger salutes with the packed house.
Presumably, the folks in the roiling mosh pit didn't care that all the playing and hysterical leaping rarely meshed into anything memorable. The band failed to re-create the powerful musical settings of its recorded work. When its live musicianship becomes as skilled as its theatrics and merchandising, Slipknot may be known for more than its masks.
American Youth Philharmonic
The American Youth Philharmonic kicked off its 35th-anniversary concert in impressive style Sunday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Under Luis Haza's sensitive baton, these players, ages 8 to 22, gave a rich and finely articulated account of the Jeremiah Clarke-Henry Wood "Trumpet Voluntary."
But the real challenge came with Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," which spotlights entire sections, then solo instruments. The ensemble met Britten's challenges handsomely, with problems of pitch and timing few and fleeting. The clarinets, trombones, violins and xylophone made the most satisfying impressions, but all the musicians onstage sounded well trained and eloquent beyond their years.
Britten's moody and mischievous "Scottish Ballad" for two pianos brought a few coordination problems between keyboards and podium, but the orchestra played quite well and soloists Sara Wolfensohn and National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin attacked their parts with brio.
Beethoven's "Triple" Concerto saw Slatkin conducting, Haza as violin soloist, Wolfensohn returning on piano, and NSO principal David Hardy playing the central cello part. The solo work was lively overall, but patches of tentative phrasing, edgy tone, finger slips and sketchy ensemble work suggest that this score wasn't fully in these fine musicians' bones. As for the orchestra, it was easy to forget most of the time that this was not a professional group.
John Chester of WGMS-FM served as master of ceremonies and Slatkin affably narrated the "Young Person's Guide."
Midway through Vinx's performance at Takoma Station Tavern Sunday, the singer-songwriter invited poet Kwame Alexander onstage. Against a backdrop of percussion and electronic effects, Alexander recited "I Watched," a rhapsody inspired by woman's charms. As it turned out, the poem also offered a little prayer for "when Vinx wins a Grammy and Sting sings backup. You know, the way it's supposed to be."
Vinx, who toured as an opening act with Sting in the early '90s, probably isn't banking on that. But in the meantime, he certainly isn't in need of people willing to share vocals with him. Sunday night his resonant baritone was often shaded by crowd-fed harmonies, and the three "official" vocal recruits he drew from the audience eagerly embraced his freewheeling approach to jazz and R&B.
There were times, though, when Vinx preferred to go it alone, as in his now-familiar a cappella arrangement of Van Morrison's "Moondance." At other times, he relied on two percussionists and his own drums to create a weave of polyrhythmic funk. While the results were sometimes more crowd-pleasing than inspired, the largely improvised reprises of "Porch Light," "Temporary Love" and other favorites demonstrated plenty of vocal ingenuity.