Both Arcade Fire and The Black Keys sound as good, or better, live, so I try to catch them when they come into town. The Keys came through Summerstage last week to play an early show before taking the stage later at Terminal 5. For a solid 90 minutes, they pumped out seventies-infused hard rock riffs and beats to a sold out crowd that was more than a little high. Wedged in the center near the back, our evening was punctuated with groups of girls stumbling past (or into) us. It was a nice night, though, and Dan Auerbach sounded just as resonant in the middle of the park as in a small club. It was a little weird to see the duo bring out other musicians -- not that it sounded bad -- midway through the set. There's something about Auerbach and Patrick Carney's musical chemistry that was, if not diminished, altered.
On the other hand, Arcade Fire seems to benefit exponentially whenever they add musicians on stage. They had nine on Wednesday night when they took the stage at Madison Square Garden in front of a backdrop of images that evoked the suburbs of their new album. Win Butler and the gang spent their 100 minute set running around on stage, rotating instruments like a game of musical chairs. Regine Chassagne began the evening on one of two drumsets for "Ready to Start". She moved throughout the night to the keyboards, accordion, and even centerstage to sing lead on a couple songs. There's an amazing joy of playing that emenated from the stage and sets Arcade Fire apart from other talented indie bands. I can't wait to see what other projects they tackle as they mature as a band.
On the art front, The Museum of Modern Art has been going through a curatorial rebirth or redefinition with shows like the hugely successful Tim Burton retrospective, the endlessly provocative Marina Abramovic show and now an inventive photography show The Original Copy that examines photographs of sculpture spanning from 1839 to today. The art-within-art show opened last week and is cleverly conceived by Roxana Marcoci, who does a great job of highlighting the importance of perception in art. We see simple images from multiple angles revisited by a diverse selection of artists from Walker Evans to Bruce Nauman. It's an exhibit that's sure to spark debate as much as illuminate with its breath of art including Duchamp's mini-urinal. If only they'd sell replicas in the gift shop!
And finally, on the theater front, Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters recently took over for Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones, respectfully, and together are reshaping the way we see Trevor Nunn's near-perfect production. Stritch expresses so much while confined in a wheelchair that the role seems like it was expanded since Lansbury played it. What I remember as a throwaway part with a few lines has turned into a role that not only supplies great comic moments but anchors the show with the sardonic wisdom of the older generation that knows how the mess of love affairs will play out and guides us through the action. Peters, likewise, completely owns the role of Desiree, playing her with a subtlety that most actresses couldn't get away with. I don't usually see shows more than once, but this time I'm glad I did. If you missed the original cast, the night has smiled for you with an even stronger second coming.