It's a tough assignment to play a gig on a Monday night all the way over on 10th Avenue, but if any band has the energy to make a crowd forget the weekly slog, it's Scotland's Sons and Daughters. "What day is it, Sunday?" lead singer Adele Bethel asked the somewhat spare audience at Highline Ballroom before launching into another song. "Monday? Ugh." Cue the beat.
Bethel excels at breathy, soulful vocals and looks the part of a vampy chanteuse-- or Meg White as a 40s pinup girl-- all jet-black hair and leopard-print jumpsuit. Her powerhouse pipes definitely stand out, but the band itself is as excellent as its highest common denominator. Their playing was tight despite a stand-in bassist—bandmate Ailidh Lennon, Bethel explained, was pregnant and about to give birth at any minute. That left guitarist Scott Paterson to supply the hooks (many) and drummer David Gow to supply the beat (driving). Gow had a little help from Bethel, who was beating a tambourine against her hips so forcefully that it seemed she was actually extracting rhythm from her body.
Sons and Daughters' set list relied heavily on their latest album, This Gift, released by Domino in January. The band railed through tracks like the high-octane "Gilt Complex," with Paterson's deft and darkly catchy riffs complementing Bethel's ghostly "wahoos" and Cow's anthemic drum lines. The song culminated with Bethel kicking into a growl for the last lines: "But avarice is all that he's made of/And everybody knows..." (Ten points for working "avarice" into the lyrics.) The group showcased plenty of heavier work—the especially evocative "Rama Lama," from 2005's The Repulsion Box, had a clanger-cum-hymnal sound—but it always kept a foot in the light-hearted, transitioning easily into breezy, kicky songs like "Darling."
The band's stage presence was just as jovial. They professed their love for New York ("This is genuinely our favorite city," Bethel said. "We don't say that every night.") and joked about their crew ("Dominic looks like Keith Moon," Paterson said. "It makes us suspicious of what his mother did in the '60s."). When Bethel wanted the audience to clap along, she wasn't shy, calling out "even the cool kids in the back." Hipsters take note: Your rep of ridiculousness has gone global.
At encore time, Gow was the first to re-take the stage. He started a simple, intense drum beat that grew more complex as his bandmates returned, before they all started in on The Repulsion Box's "Taste the Last Girl." For the final song, they chose one of the most dance-able tracks off This Gift, "Chains." "This one requires some participation," Bethel told the crowd. She was right: "Chains," with its sing-along chorus and nonsense "whoa-whoa-whoas," was made to share with a crowd. "Saw him standing there/And I know/What it takes to make a show," Bethel sang. Indeed—even on a Monday night.
Sons and Daughters
YouTube: Songs and Daughters - "Gilt Complex"