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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Concert review: Alex Winston is a live wire at Loving Touch homecoming show

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 12:01 PM

WHO: Alex Winston with George Morris & the Gypsy Chorus
WHEN: Tuessday, June 30, 2015
WHERE: The Loving Touch

As house music sprang from the doors at 8 p.m., two old ladies winced in pain, saying “I hope it isn’t going to be that loud all night.” Contrary to the association of pop music as the anthem of the young, the amassed crowd outside the Loving Touch was anything but the teeny bopper bubble brain image. Hulking men with tattoos, elderly citizens, and 20-somethings were the first ones in.

West Bloomfield native Alex Winston is what would be technically classified as a pop artist. However, her music and demeanor sheds the plasticity of pop for a more grassroots edge. You can hear a sense of urgency and struggle in Winston’s set, which gives her the necessary dynamics where she can really belt it out after singing comfortably.

Her song “Careless” captured this dynamic. After watching the music video version of this track I was expecting a laid-back pop feel, but Winston turned it up live. Her performance really put the video to shame. Winston never stops bouncing, jumping on the bass drum and flinging her hair in contrast to her more somber act in the music video.

This energy didn’t let up throughout the night. She was a live wire.

However, Winston can be too much of a one-woman show. She often doesn’t interact with her bandmates and they, dressed in black on black, look like stage-hands and don’t really stick out. They bop to the groove and jump up and down, but are confined to a short radius of movement.

It could’ve been that the Loving Touch’s small stage crammed the ensemble. Nevertheless, it would be nice to see them share the energy more with her instead of looking like they’ve been dragged out of a production studio to back her.

That being said, the crowd at the Loving Touch was everything a home crowd could be to Winston. When she broke into “Sister Wife,” the crowd loudly sang the lyrics with her, sharing a familiar intimacy. Singing about incestuous relationships was never so touching.

Winston easily has the voice and musicianship to push her over the hardest hurdle a performer faces — the transition from being “the new thing” to “the thing.” The Guardian and Pitchfork both have given Winston love for her style as well as Rolling Stone. She tours nationally and keeps writing new music. She is in her prime and did her home crowd justice. 

Taking a page out of Parliament-Funkadelic, George Morris & the Gypsy Chorus employed a UFO landing sound to open their set. And we were in for a space jam.

The trance notes were established immediately and repeated over and over with miniscule changes in classic trance fashion. Once the trance was in full charge, the band went crazy. Morris flung his guitar down and thrashed it on the ground, the bass player had some sort of nervous tick while plucking, and the drummer, who usually looked like a Neanderthal beating a fish dead, pummeled his toms mercilessly.

Then a breath of fresh groove came in and swept the trance away.

These types of expansive progressions need an anchor, and Morris’ drummer rises above and beyond to this task. Despite his stoic manner, he is firmly steering the ship at all times. Employing the "traditional grip" most evident with jazz drummers, he makes lightning fast drum rolls and keeps the tempo tight.

Morris is a powerhouse as well. His Smashing Pumpkins-like high pitched wheeze fits the trance style and his guitar work helps the songs reach their peak.

George Morris & the Gypsy Chorus have a clean, crisp sense of direction despite their hectic space jams. 

Dennis Burck is a summer intern at Metro Times.

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