Blonde Redhead – Hollywood Avondale: June 22, 2024 (Concert Review)

For the uninitiated, Blonde Redhead are a New York-based band featuring twin Italian-American brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace (on guitars and drums respectively), and Japanese-American vocalist and guitarist Kazu Makino.

With a dreamy mix of pop melodies, textural guitar tones and experimental rock elements, they sit somewhere between American art-rock like Sonic Youth and UK shoegaze bands like Slowdive. Having last played here at Laneway 2011, it was clear that a thirteen year absence has made many hearts grow fonder, and Blonde Redhead captivated a packed Hollywood Avondale on Saturday, delivering a spellbinding performance that showcased their eclectic blend of arty-indie.

Support was provided by seasoned international music veteran (and current New Zealand resident) Lucola, who warmed up the Hollywood with his mix of ambient avant garde electronic music, with echoes of Jean-Michel Jarre and Air.

Blonde RedheadThe gig started slightly oddly, and for a full minute it was hard to work out if the band were still tuning up or playing a very long intro, but when the melody for Falling Man finally kicked in, and Makino’s haunting vocals soared effortlessly over intricate guitar riffs and pulsating rhythms the audience was immediately captivated, swaying and nodding along in unison to the hypnotic beats. (This was definitely an “audience nodding” show. Strictly no dancing.) Arranged on stage like an equilateral triangle, the band looked effortlessly cool – Amadeo a big man with a tiny guitar, Kazu throwing shapes across the stage, and each of Simone’s cymbals glowing like the Eye of Sauron under the red gels.

Despite a long history and deep back catalogue, tonight’s set relied heavily on songs from 2004’s Misery is a Butterfly, 2007’s 23 and last year’s Sit Down for Dinner. One of the many highlights of the show came early in the set, during the performance of Dr. Strangeluv, where Amedeo Pace’s guitar shone, weaving intricate melodies that echoed Blonde Redheadthrough the Hollywood, creating an almost otherworldly ambiance. The band’s chemistry onstage was palpable, and despite obviously nursing a cold and having to regularly wipe her nose and swig from an array of concoctions sitting on one of the monitors, Makino’s ethereal presence complemented the rhythmic precision of the Pace brothers, creating a cohesive and immersive musical “vibe” unusual for a band with so few members.

The concert reached its climax with an absolutely cacophonous Spring and by Summer Fall, with

Simone’s motorik drumming and Amedeo’s howling guitar work feeling like they were going to collapse in on themselves any second, and the extended chaotic outro eventually segwayed into perhaps their most well-known song, 23, which sounded absolutely blinding. The set-proper’s final song, Rest of Her Life, brought everything back to earth and, for the first time in the night, a band member spoke – a simple “thank you guys so much” from Amedeo before leaving the stage.

The inevitable encore began a little awkwardly, with Kaza awkwardly asking “Is it true we’re here for the first time?”, to howls of “NO!” and “LANEWAY!” from the crowd. Oops. Still, all was quickly forgiven, and we finally got a bit of banter from the previously circumspect band. Blonde Redhead closed the night with Kiss Her, Kiss Her, a poignant and introspective track that resonated deeply with the crowd, concluding the evening on a reflective yet cathartic note.

Blonde Redhead

In his book The Ten Rules of Rock N Roll, exGo-Betweens frontman Robert Forster asserts “…the three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression”. Post-Nirvana there have been few truly iconic three-piece bands. Tonight’s performance at the Hollywood was a testament to Blonde Redhead’s enduring musical prowess and artistic evolution, with a performance that was both sonically rich and emotionally resonant.

Lawrence Mikkelsen

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:

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