Live Review: CocoRosie with Cibelle @ Showbox 6/25

The all-ages CocoRosie show in Seattle happened on Friday night at Showbox at the Market and they brought Brazilian-born-London-based singer Cibelle to be the opener. Cibelle is a quirky character that has her stage (and herself) decorated with feathers and glitter — lots of glitter. She didn’t have a band, just an electric guitar and a little machine with the rhythms and noises of birds and forests. She follows the school of Brazilian music for exportation with a bossa nova vocal approach and lyrics that talk about love. She has a strong personality, though, taking off her dress and playing half of her 30-minute set with a very tight bodysuit and shorts with holes on it. The crowd seemed to enjoy it. The machine she used somehow dialogues with the main attraction so it made sense?

At about ten o’clock, the Casady sisters took the stage accompanied by Tez, the beatboxer, drummer/percussionist Marc Lacaille and Gael Rakotondrabe, the piano player I praised when I reviewed Grey Oceans back in May. The table with toys next to Bianca, Sierra’s harp, and the projections on a back screen made it obvious that it was not going to be your average show.

They kicked off with “R.I.P. Burn Face” followed by “Undertaker.” Those familiar with the album probably noticed some subtle changes either on the melodies or vocal lines on almost every song, which made the performance even richer and full of little surprises. The set was, as expected, heavily based on their latest record, with all but three songs performed. They also played a few from 2007’s The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (“Rainbowwarriors” reworked and renamed “Black Rainbow” is incredibly strong live), Kevin Lytle’s “Turn Me On” and a couple of unreleased-but-often-played ones like the closer, “Tranny Power.”

The duo often receives very strong reactions from people. It’s the love-or-hate type of sound. Recently Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons) came to their defense with an enlightening essay on the album and the reasons why they have been neglected by the American press for years. The reviews of their albums and shows are usually superficial and focus on their outfits, the toys and the old inversion-of-gender-roles-story. The music becomes secondary and it shouldn’t. Seeing them live just reinforces the impossibility of being indifferent to their sound and their enchanting personae. Their mix of hip-hop, piano, children’s toys, a harp, and two of the most distinct vocal approaches put together is, to say the least, intriguing. Even more intriguing is that it works. They make people dance; they bring deep melancholy with the heartbreaking verses in many of their songs while making it all seem effortless somehow.

Highlights were definitely Sierra Casady’s amazing vocal power, the jaw-dropping beatbox solo number halfway through the set (and his interventions throughout the performance, naturally), the groovier “The Moon Asked The Crow” (which they performed live on KEXP earlier on that same day), the title track, and “Promise” with Sierra belting out the ending of the unreleased “Black Swan” accompanied by Tez and the piano. Surprisingly, one of the strongest, most beloved tracks on Grey Oceans, “Smokey Taboo” lost some of its magic live, maybe because a very modest intro replaced the breathtaking original one. There were important layers missing there. Also, not one track from their debut “La Mason The Mon Rêve” was played. Maybe one hour and thirty minutes was just not enough when you have so many great songs.

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