Cranes’ Roxy performance presents musical talent that speaks volumes
By Daily Bruin Staff
April 9, 1997 9:00 p.m.
Cranes’ Roxy performance presents musical talent that speaks
Female-fronted band skips charismatic concerns, plays spectrum
of dark-natured songs before crowd of fans
By Kristin Fiore
Daily Bruin Senior Staff
The Cranes’ music is better suited to a bleak, black-and-white
Ingmar Bergman film than a steamy nightclub on the Sunset strip.
But you’d never know it by the band’s impressive show at the Roxy
on Tuesday. They not only packed the crowd, but they also made them
forget they were sweltering in their black, trendy gothic or
The band, knowing better, dressed for the occasion, with Allison
Shaw in a colorful sundress and Princess Leia pigtails. Their
conspicuously un-gothic outfits and lack of pre-show chit-chat
proved the show was not about image or charisma, but pure music.
They dove right into the first song within seconds of taking the
stage and did not stop until the encore.
The Cranes covered every corner of their catalog, including most
of the current album, "Population Four." Every single song,
especially those from their 1993 album, "Forever," was met with
enthusiastic cheers from an audience clearly composed of dedicated
The band and the crowd were unusually still and sedate – either
due to the heat or to the dark nature of the music – but every eye
was aimed right at Shaw, who captivated them nonetheless. Often it
is her lack of drama that is most intriguing or disquieting; her
only sign of emphasis is a feeble swing of her left arm.
Yet, she and the boys (yet another female fronted band) did not
disappoint. Their sound was consistently strong and balanced,
though at times Shaw got drowned a bit in the mix. The lower
guitars, bass and drums, which are the heart of their music,
dominated, producing a rich sound and driving rhythm. Even the
pre-recorded keyboard sounds, like the violin and piano on "Far
Away," sounded even fuller and more real than on the album.
But the toned-down, acoustic songs were equally enjoyable. Shaw
duetted with a guitar in the despairing "Tangled Up," arguably the
highlight of the show. Without the competition of electric guitars,
her voice rang clear and childlike, as is her trademark. That made
it all the more bizarre to hear her cry, "Oh no, not again – did I
really fuck it up again?" If the song weren’t so poignant, you’d
want to wash her mouth out with soap and send her to bed.
Her angelic voice, which you either love or hate, is a strange
companion to the dour, often heartbreaking, music. Her high notes,
while they can be tinny at times, are the epitome of innocence. Her
lower notes are resonant and powerful. Even when you can’t
understand the lyrics – which is most of the time – her tone is a
contrast to the heavy minor chords and eerie, yellow fog that
envelops her. She spent much of the show in silhouette, shrouding
the quieter songs in mystery.
As the songs grew louder and more chaotic, she stood at the
center of the flaring strobe lights and scraping guitars, like an
amused child at the eye of a tornado, unaware of the danger around
her. The dirge-like pounding of "Sixth of May" and the siren wails
of "Angel" worked themselves into frenzies of noise and confusion.
Some songs incorporated both moods, starting slowly, then winding
themselves tighter and faster, like "To Be."
Two of the most beautiful, emotional songs, both off of
"Forever," covered opposite ends of the spectrum. "Far Away," with
simplistic piano as its backbone and a lonely descending violin,
was the very sound of tragedy. It built to a lush arrangement that
included guitars and drums, then receded again to the bare
"Adrift," however, was like walking dazed through a thunder
storm, a feeling aided by the strobe lights. The bass and drums
made the floor shake like a cheap hotel bed when you put a quarter
in it. Layers of scraping, howling guitars crashed into each other
as the guitarists slid their hands up the neck. There was a violin
in there somewhere, and even Shaw managed to get a few words in
She closed the show with the band’s hit from their 1994 album,
"Loved," saying, "Here comes a noisy one." And indeed it was.
"Lilies" is their loudest song to date, though the live version
failed to muster the decibels of the album version. And when it
ended, they scampered off the stage with only a "Thanks, bye!"
This evening, though, there wasn’t much more they could have
said. Their music spoke for itself.JANA BONDERMAN
Allison Shaw and the rest of The Cranes played the Roxy Tuesday
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