April 18, 2014
David J has been kicking around the music scene for closing in on 40 years, weaving his booming yet hypnotic bass-lines through such memorable acts as goth-rock originators Bauhaus, and the ever mutating groove-psychedelic-rock genius of Love and Rockets. Unfortunately, if music history shows us anything, it could be that in the presence of such remarkable acts, the solo projects of the individual members, saved for the lead singers (usually), tend to fall by the wayside and right into a sad but quick obscurity. However, David J has managed to carve out a quiet, ongoing career with a sound that echoes his past endeavors while veering far enough from his prior projects to be judged on its own merit.
Just as David J’s music has altered over the years, so has the method in which his projects reach the public for consumption. This current tour comes to the public courtesy of a recently successful Kickstarter campaign, which was created to help fund the pressing/distribution and touring for his latest release An Eclipse of Ships. For his first full band show of the U.S. tour, David J and the Gentleman Thieves attempt to use his fans money wisely with a stop at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ.
Kicking off the evening was Joy Division tribute band Disorder, with the task of setting the mood (or decade) for the evening. Since they went on later than anticipated (the show started at 9:15pm), they nearly lost the crowd before a single note was struck, which killed some of the vibe with the mainly older crowd (a quick scan of the venue would find a lot of yawning.) They nobly attempted to revive the club with a wide-ranging display of popular Division tunes featuring obligatory tracks such as “Ceremony,” “Transmission” and the ever-obvious “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Although the performance was good, with the singer doing his best Ian Curtis impression while trying to work the crowd into frenzy, it ultimately never reached its peak, ending on a bit of a disinterested note.
Going on well after 10 pm, the silent giant David J glided through the crowd to join his band, laying down a progression on harmonica that transitioned into well-known Love and Rockets tune “Bound for Hell,” which immediately invigorated a slowly draining crowd. It was immediately followed by a softer, folkier acoustic cut from An Eclipse of Ships, “Dust in the Wind,” which could very well have diminished the room’s renewed enthusiasm. Luckily, David J’s stage presence is as persuasive as his bass playing, which encouraged the crowd to follow him into the rest of his set. Helping add to the stage presence was his fantastic backing band The Gentleman Thieves, whose cohesive playing helped to add warmth and subtle textures, bringing out the best in both his solo and group output.
The rest of the evening saw him navigating the Thieves through his decades of experience, moving from choice earlier solo works (“Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh”), through Love and Rockets (“No New Tale to Tell” & “Kundalini Express”) and back to current (the fantastic “Hot Sheet Hotel”). The highlight of the night was easily his stop in Bauhaus territory, with a spacey, country-leaning reworking of “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight” (which originally featured him on vocals), from their final 1983 album Burning on the Inside. It also was the song on which the Gentleman Thieves shined best, expanding on a lush but trippy atmosphere, which made a once haunting song a little less lonely.
If one thing could be said about the music itself, it’s that David J smartly reworked his former bands’ material into versions more befitting of his solo output, consciously avoiding the trap that many other resurfacing older acts fall into, that of riding a wave of nostalgia. It was a night of David J luring the crowd in with a taste of what they wanted, and then injecting his own hard-worked tunes in between each piece. A smart move designed to avoid the past, while allowing it to work for him, as he continues building his own private future (that was a Love and Rockets reference).