Lion’s Den, October 29, 2002:
I am invited to review a new band from Portugal called The Gift. They are appearing at Lion’s Den on 214 Sullivan Street in Manhattan. My curiosity is aroused by David Parnes at The B.B. King Blues Club, who is their manager and speaks very, very highly of them.
I get to Manhattan early and walk around the Village enjoying the New York scene, autumn in New York. Before the doors open, I have an interesting conversation with Jason who is employed at EMI records in the royalties department. Jason is a pianist. The doors open at 7:00 P.M. I am greeted by David, who is glad I could come on down to catch the show. I am on the guest list again, thanks to Ariel Publicity. David introduces me to several of his friends and they are all very nice indeed. One of his friends Topher, short for Christopher, works at The Blue Note club just around the corner from here. He has also come to see the new musical phenomenon from Portugal. We have a long and enjoyable conversation.
The Gift is due to start playing at 7:30 P.M., but they delay until 8:00 P.M. to let the club fill up, which it does. The Gift takes the stage at 8:00 P.M. and play some very original and unusual musical material.
The first number is heavily flavored with tremendous keyboard. The sound is unusual and very ethereal. The repeating vocal refrain is, “I try,” but I do not catch the song title to this tune. The second song is very mysterious with synthesized double tracked vocals. There is an up-tempo change that is dynamically interesting. This is quite an unusual musical effect that The Gift employs with the keyboard backing the vocals in a mysteriously synthesized double tracking technique. The talented horn section consists of 2 tenor saxophones, trombone and trumpet. The trombone takes a great solo on this tune. The repeating vocal refrain is, “is it me?” Sonia, the lead vocalist, dances and creates a very whimsical presence. The overall musical presentation is strong, slow and deliberate.
Song three is the single released from the latest CD titled, The Film, which is called, “Water Skin.” This song starts off with a synthesized vocal that continues the band’s mysterious musical approach. The song has a hard driving 4/4 groove with an interesting keyboard flavored melody sporadically placed against a strong vocal presentation. The song is upbeat, lively and spirited.
Song four is called, “The Difference Between Us.” This tune has a slow and deliberate 4/4 tempo. The mystery continues with heavy effects and eerie synthesizer accompaniment. The minor mode contributes effectively to the unsettling musical mood. The vocals are strong and sensuous and are further complimented by strong visuals on the screen behind the band.
Song five is titled, “Front Of.” This tune exemplifies the heavily synthesized, mysterious and eerie mood the band wishes to convey. The song is slow and brooding. An accordion is played here very effectively. The song is dramatic, emotional and builds dynamically. The song employs a super techno sound and is very, very interesting. The vocal is excellent and strong.
Song six is called, “OK? So You Want Something Simple.” This tune is very melodically soothing and has a somewhat lighter feel. Song seven is slow and quiet and presents a noticeable dynamic contrast. The tune again employs heavy synthesizer effects. The capacity crowd is fully involved and pushing forward toward the stage.
Song eight is called, “Question Of Love.” This number has a foot stompin’ 4/4 tempo. There is a horn section intro and the song embraces a marching feel. The place is cheering for this remarkable, innovative and uniquely different band sound.
Song nine is titled, “Next Town.” This is a 4/4-time rocker! This song is both mysterious and moody with heavy synthesizer and ethereal musical sound accompaniment. The drummer does an interesting hi-hat figure between a heavy 4/4 tempo. This techno sound has tinges of a long forgotten psychedelic musical attribute in its style. There is an excellent trombone solo executed here.
The Gift puts on a tremendous show here at Lion’s Den tonight. The Gift is very different and very original. They are a heavy content-oriented band. Sonia, the female lead vocalist, is a tremendous singer with meaning in her songs, which is quite a refreshing change from the pop-oriented strip tease females that predominate the U.S. music scene today. Sonia is attractively dressed in a long black skirt and artsy black and white print blouse, high up to the neck. The quality and content of the music is clearly the main focus here. A young attractive female fan standing next to me exclaims, “Sonia has a beautiful presence, amazing and sensible.” The band itself is an excellent group of musicians. The are charismatic, talented, and deliver a very imaginative and original style of musical presentation.
The Gift is a tremendous band. I urge everyone to catch their few American shows while they can. Their music grows on you and has creative depth and unique innovation not typically heard in recent times.
I finally meet Frank Woodworth from Ariel Publicity. We talk at length and I thank him several times for letting me review shows at: The B.B. King Blues Club, The Blue Note, and here at Lion’s Den. The vibe is very good between us. Frank introduces me to an Ariel Publicity co-worker, Emily. She is very friendly and we talk easily. Emily manages several bands and will notify me of their future gigs, so I can review these acts for her. It is so nice to finally meet Frank, and Emily. I feel a genuine rapport between us.
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