Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Heavy at the Webster Hall Ballroom

Vocalist Kelvin Swaby and guitarist Dan Taylor became friends in their native England in 1998, bonding over a love for vintage soul music and Jim Jarmusch films. The duo recruited bassist Spencer Page and drummer Chris Ellul to form the Heavy. The Heavy recorded its first album in 2007, and it was released in the United States in 2008. The band’s third and most recent album, The Glorious Dead, was released last summer.

At the Webster Hall Ballroom tonight, the Heavy showed that despite several digital samples on its most popular album cuts, the ensemble is primarily a live band. The music was as guitar-hard and bass-heavy as Black Sabbath or the Beastie Boys, but overlaid with Curtis Mayfield-like rhythm and blues-inspired vocals. The heavy added two saxophone players and two backup vocalists to the touring group, but they were barely audible and seemed like window dressing to the core music made by the lead instruments and rhythm section. Swaby was an energetic front man who spent the show pacing the stage, often crouching at the edge and leaning into the audience, and engaging the audience to bounce or sing along. Toward the end of the set, he announced that the last few songs would be call-and-response; he then pointed his vintage microphone into the audience during the hook lines. The Heavy’s performance demonstrated that it is neither a soul band nor a hard rock band, but falls somewhere in a genre-defying middle.