On the day some crazy lady crashed her car into the White House (how’s my driving?*) and our government reached it’s third day of an unsettling shutdown, I went to see Atoms For Peace perform at the War Memorial. It was all very dystopian, like a Thom Yorke lyric come to life. But forget the fact that Rome is burning for a second… what an amazing show!
Atoms For Peace are a supergroup of sorts, here to save the universe: Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke writes the songs, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist/yoga instructor Flea slaps the bass, genius producer Nigel Godrich mans the keyboards and provides very Thom Yorke-esque backing vocals through a filtered mic, and drummer Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refoscot drive everything forward with skittery grace.
To see Flea and Yorke happy dancing in tandem to the strange, menacing laptronica (taken from both Yorke’s solo album The Eraser and Atoms For Peace’s debut effort Amok) is mind blowing. Here are two icons from iconic bands of the ’90s, joining forces in the year 2013. That’d be like… if Flavor Flav and Ol’ Dirty Bastard formed a rap group. Or that time Flea was in Jane’s Addiction. Or Jack Irons joining Pearl Jam. However you slice it, it’s much better than Chickenfoot.
Tonight, they were both decked out in long black skirts, which gave Yorke the appearance of a bearded lady… and the usually shirtless Flea was wearing some sort of sleeved thing with buttons up the front and a collar. Both expressed ecstasy with their moving bodies, in sync and in lock step with each other.
While you know that the guy behind the keyboards could be providing all of the music with the touch of a button, the evening was very much about creating a cathartic live musical experience. The beats, which can at first seem as if they’re beating to a different drummer than the rest of the song, are created via sweat and hard work, incorporating everything from Brazilian berimbaus to fingers tapping on a microphone. Everyone then adds their black magic on top; Yorke howls from behind the piano, Flea improvises during “Black Swan,” and Godrich plays God behind the synthesizers. Most of the songs performed are legitimately great songs with strong melodies, while some are more like instrumental pieces with singing over them. Flea eventually takes his shirt off, maybe because when he wears one he looks a little too much like Sting.
The evening ends with the rarest of concert spectacle — the fake out double encore. First, the lights go up after the band has left the stage. Boo! Then, after a few unlucky souls have split, and an eternity of cheering, they return for one last song. YAY!
Go see Atoms Of Peace while you can, and don’t leave the venue until they disappear completely.