Saturday, November 5, 2016

Grouplove at Hammerstein Ballroom

Christian Zucconi (background)
and Hannah Hooper
Vocalist/keyboardist Hannah Hooper met vocalist/guitarist Christian Zucconi in 2009 in New York City, where she was a painter and he played in a hardcore band called Aloke. Hooper was leaving a week later for an artist residency in Crete, and she invited Zucconi to join her. There they met guitarist Andrew Wessen, bassist Sean Gadd and drummer Ryan Rabin, and together the five musicians became Grouplove. The band relocated to Wessen's home base in Los Angeles, California. Daniel Gleason replaced Gadd on bass in 2014. Grouplove released its third studio album, Big Mess, on September 9, 2016.

Grouplove has performed in New York many times, including a recent surprise lunchtime concert in Washington Square Park, but headlining at the Hammerstein Ballroom presented the band with perhaps its largest local audience so far. The parallel trajectory is that the band has refined its pop sound from its earlier garage leanings to a far more polished sheen that brought to mind slick chart toppers like Imagine Dragons and Arcade Fire. Featuring songs built around cascading verses and escalating choruses, the band seemed to reach crescendos often. Although the other musicians did most of the heavy lifting as far as powering the rock, Grouplove was best when the red-haired Hooper and the blue-haired Zucconi teamed on euphoric gang vocals. The two front people seemed comfortable in their new role as pop stars; Zucconi noted the progression from his early New York years when he worked backstage at the same venue, and both Hooper and Zucconi took the liberty to crowd-surf over their fans towards the end of the set. The setlist included better known songs including "Itchin' on a Photograph", "Tongue Tied", "Shark Attack" and "Colours," as well as a rousing cover of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage." Grouplove is destined for greater heights.

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