The early bird catches the worm – or in this case, the bee – as evidenced by the throngs of devoted hipnoscenti who packed into SOhO to catch acclaimed LA-based retro-pop duo The Bird and The Bee‘s evening show on Saturday.
Following an opening set of chimerical pop by Obi Best, B&B collaborators Inara George and Greg Kurstin showered the rapt audience with tracks from their just-dropped album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, alongside an array of bossa nova-influenced numbers from their eponymous 2007 debut. Combining innovative chord changes with an eclectic array of references to bubbly synth-lounge, psychedelic Tropic¡lia, and electronic pop, multi-instrumentalist Kurstin produced a complex and refreshingly original backdrop for George’s sweetly demure vocals. The result was sublime, inventive, and utterly engaging; at once retro and completely modern.
The duo was joined onstage by Obi Best frontwoman Alex Lilly and bassist Wendy Wang, who lent support on the girl-group choruses and irrepressible choreographed antics. The shimmering star of the ensemble was undeniably George, a stylishly mod, doe-eyed gamine whose beguiling voice and hipster cool held the audience in thrall as she dispensed charming anecdotes and sly lyrical innuendo.
Launching the set with Ray Gun‘s sparkling “My Love,” George cooed dreamily against Kurstin’s infectious looped backbeat of thunderous claps, stomps, and twinkling piano melodies. She showcased her breathy falsetto on the frothy pop confection “Again & Again,” and juxtaposed her high, sweet vocals with rap cliches and Kurstin’s crashing rhythms on the delightfully deadpan “Polite Dance Song.” Apologizing to younger fans for liberally dropping f-bombs during the sassy, danceable “Fucking Boyfriend,” George urged a sing-along to the number’s electronic riffs. Perhaps in deference to the more junior members of the all-ages audience, the crowd demurred, but obligingly boogied to the energetic J-Pop tribute “Love Letter To Japan.” Changing gears from saccharine to smoldering, George’s faithful yet sultry cover of Hall and Oates‘ “I Can’t Go For That” imbued the lyrics with a coy sensuality.
After offering the audience a choice between the wistful lament “I’m a Broken Heart” and “How Deep Is Your Love,” George declared a tie and played an encore medley of the two. Her vulnerable, sincere rendition of the otherwise syrupy Bee Gees tune was absent of the gentle irony with which B&B infuse the majority of their music, and despite the abrupt drop in tempo following a highly energetic set, the adoring audience remained entranced, engaging in a call-and-response during the chorus.
Ending a club show with a down-tempo Bee Gees ballad before nine o’clock on a Saturday can plummet one’s hip factor to dangerously low levels. But in this case, the early birds caught this weekend’s height of retro-cool.