Adam Green and Binki Shapiro - Bootleg Theater - 1/29/13
Adam Green and Binki Shapiro
Cristina Black Binki Shapiro and Adam Green
Better than... hanging out with two people who are in a crappy relationship.
When news that Adam Green and Binki Shapiro were working together surfaced, it was exciting in the way it is when two of your favorite friends start dating each other. He formerly of the Moldy Peaches, she formerly of Little Joy, the bi-coastal duo are fairly magical on their eponymous debut album. After rolling solo for a decade's worth of records, Green had finally found a musical partner to replace Kimya Dawson; he too found Shapiro's voice a thing of effortless beauty that deserved further showcasing.
The resulting recordings push both artists to new heights. Shapiro seems more confident, Green less silly. The lyrics are uncommonly insightful, the melodies carefully crafted. Written while they were both going through breakups of their own, the album recalls the late-'70s/early-'80s golden age of the studio-made heartbreak duet, an NPR-adapted revival of the "Separate Lives" era. Maybe it makes sense, then, that they're not exactly harmonious onstage.
As the material spells out, relationships are complicated. From the first song of the night, things seemed not to be going very well. It was hard to tell whose fault the tensions were, though several explanations did surface. Three songs in, Shapiro announced that she was getting over a bug. Then Green admitted he was nervous about the size of the venue. There were mistakes and apologies, shortcomings and excuses. And selfishness. Somewhere in the middle of the show, Green pulled out a mini-set of his own songs about cheap drugs and strange parties while Shapiro submissively strummed her guitar. The rest of the band looked confused. Audience chatter grew louder.
Finally, Green broke into the opening strains of "Here I Am," the single and the song everyone came to hear. It was comfort cut short. Halfway through the first verse, Green stopped the whole band after flubbing his guitar part. He practiced while Shapiro called him a fuck-up. When they started again, she sounded prettier, but more bored. He messed up the same lick again on the outro, she skipped half a verse on "Don't Ask For More," he made stupid jokes about Subway sandwiches, and some other embarrassing stuff happened. Who could keep track?
"Thanks, you guys, for coming. This is our last song," Shapiro said weakly, near the end of the set, perhaps suppressing relief. Still, they were encored to play an unnamed, off-album duet, easily the nicest moment of the show. Maybe everyone in the room knew how good these two could be together, and we wouldn't leave until they showed us.
Personal Bias: I never liked the Moldy Peaches.
The Crowd: People who heard the single on KCRW.
Random Notebook Dump: The guy next to me fell asleep halfway through the set.
Set list below