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10 out of 10
If the world was a fairer place, Blackfield would be absolutely huge. Saying that, there’s something about the fact that the band are relatively unknown that gives them an intrinsic magical quality, like a secret garden found whilst lost in the woods. Deeply quaint yet masterfully intense, Blackfield’s mix of guitar-drenched pop rock and melancholic nostalgia is a delight to experience, with the collaborative songwriting between Porcupine Tree singer/guitarist and all-round musical guru Steve Wilson and prolific singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen being second-to-none.
The fact that both members are constantly busy with other projects means that Blackfield only appear once in a blue moon. When they do make a rare appearance, you feel like you’re being treated to something extra special. ’Live in NYC’ is just such an occasion, and a mid-winter, snowy New York city could not be a more perfect setting for the special one-off show.
With a total of eighteen songs, the set covers almost everything the band have ever recorded, with all but one song played from their latest album, ’II’. If I’m completely honest, ’Blackfield II’ is an album I initially cast aside and it was left to gather dust in a forgotten CD rack after only a couple of listens. Not that I wrote it off completely, but the general feeling I got from the album was an increase in subtlety from their fantastic debut and a delve a little too deep into the realms of melancholy to keep me interested. As Steve Wilson and Aviv Geffen take the stage to a warm welcome from the New York crowd and the proceedings are kicked off with ’Once’, I’m instantly making a mental note to search for the ’Blackfield II’ CD lying dormant in my collection.
Both singers carry instantly recognisable yet very different voices, which complement and harmonize each other with effortless perfection. Steve plays the modest showman, letting his fantastic voice and musicianship do all the talking. Aviv is clearly loving the whole experience, with an energetic performance that complements the pairing so well. Jeans and t-shirt, sharp suit and glitter-covered eyes; two distinctly different personalities that feed off each other and mix so well together.
The performance really opens up the songs from ’II’ and the progression from the debut is suddenly so clear. The subtlety, the unpretentious melancholy; songs like ’Miss U’, ’1000 People’, and ’Someday’ are beautifully played out with as much emotion as you could imagine. Songs like ’Christenings’, ’Once’, ’Epidemic’ and ’End Of The World’ are rapidly joining the ranks of ’Pain’ and ’The Hole In Me’ as Blackfield classics. In fact, looking for filler material in a Blackfield set is a largely fruitless activity. Undeniably though, the earlier material has already cemented itself into the hearts of the crowd, who sing along at every opportunity as the setlist ebbs and flows from fan favourite to fan favourite.
Aviv takes to the keyboard during an impressive solo performance of ’Glow’, and stays put for an emotional rendition of Alanis Morissette’s ’Thank You’. Moving back to his guitar the show continues and from the first piano notes of the fantastic ’Epidemic’ to the last, I’m totally transfixed.
Not only has this DVD drawn me back into the amazing material that I foolishly overlooked on 'Blackfield II', it has rekindled my appreciation of a fantastic band. There is no complex array of menu options and hours of extras (although 3 promotional videos are included). What this DVD captures is a very honest recording of an amazing show, and its simplicity is why it is so perfect.
By the time they walk off stage for the first time, I’m suddenly aware that I haven’t moved an inch at any point during the last hour. A truly captivating performance, filled with raw, uplifting emotion. The rest of band, comprising of bass guitarist Seffy Efrati, keyboardist Eran Mitelman and drummer Tomer Z are all on top form as well; their contributions adding a huge sense of depth and subtle intricacy to the music.
When they come back on, we’re treated to a couple of classics from the first album and an encore version of ’Once’ to top things off. Blackfield is a truly special project from two unique individuals who could not have found a more kindred spirit in each other. Live in NYC captures every moment with perfect clarity; its simplicity is its strength, its honesty truly mesmerizing. A flawless set from surely one of the most naturally tuned pairings of musical minds of this generation.
I used to walk to work at the crack of dawn with Blackfield on my portable stereo, and as the sun came up there would always be a smile on my face. Everyone needs to hear Blackfield, and I can’t think of a better introduction to the band than this fantastic live show captured amidst a New York winter. Essential for fans of the band, artistic rock music, and anyone who thinks emotion is dead.
2. Miss U
5. The Hole In Me
6. 1,000 People
9. Thank You
12. Open Mind
13. My Gift Of Silence
14. Where Is My Love?
15. End Of The World
17. Once (Encore)
18. Cloudy Now