Blood Red Shoes perform at the Red Palace

Brighton, England rock duo Blood Red Shoes perform at the Red Palace in Washington DC.

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2012 —Seeing a duo like Blood Red Shoes perform live is always an interesting endeavor. Rock bands seem to have an ingrained assumption that they need to trot out a bass player for every performance lest the band in question reveal themselves as amateurish or incomplete. Even though the concept of a two piece rock band has graced the music landscape for quite some time and has even been accepted in popular culture for over a decade, the reality of such an ensemble still has the air of novelty about it.

When Blood Red Shoes took the stage at the Red Palace—the first time the band had the chance to play Washington DC—audience expectations were high, if a bit uncertain. On their recorded material, Blood Red Shoes possess a relatively big and engrossing hard rock sound. They pick up various aspects of indie rock, punk, and grunge, melding them into musical mixture that’s both loud and highly textured. Audience uncertainty is based on this pressing question: can Blood Red Shoes recreate their studio sound for a live audience?

Happily, all of that uncertainty gets put to rest the second Laure-Marie Carter hits her very first chord. Even performing live, this band gives the audience every bit of sonic texture they have come to expect when listening to Blood Red Shoes in a recorded format. Carter’s guitar is every bit as fuzzed out as anyone could expect, and drummer Steven Ansell is just as overpowering.  Absolutely nothing was lost in translation during their stage performance here.

What helps, though, is that for their live set they’ve jettisoned some of the band’s slower moments for the songs that represent their straight ahead rock side. Their most recent album, In Time to Voices, which was released earlier this year, represented a subtle shift for the band. It was a significantly more layered and mannered approach than they took in their previous two full-length albums. This in spite of the fact that nearly anything that can be described as “meticulous,” at least as far as Blood Red Shoes can take it, generally gets checked at the door.

Instead what the audience gets in a live performance is Blood Red Shoes at their most blistering pace, which is clearly a suitable track for them to take in an atmosphere like Red Palace where they recently performed. The Palace isn’t the type of venue that lends itself to slower musical moments, geared as it is toward appreciating the looser feel of rock.

That’s not to say Blood Red Shoes ditched all or much of their material for this show. “In Time to Voices” opened their DC set superbly, starting off as it did with a uniquely atmospheric vibe before the duo launched into their full sonic assault. This first single off their Cold album fits well enough into this mindset and doesn’t seem out of place being mixed in with the relatively well known songs from their first album such as “It’s Getting Boring by the Sea” and “I Wish I Was Someone Better,” both of which the duo played at breakneck pace.

They managed to mix up this approach though throughout their live set here, initially by performing the haunting “When We Wake.” That song was a bit of a departure from the rest of their selections, primarily because of the way it coolly builds to an impactful climax. It fit perfectly within the middle of the set and was an inspiring bit of pacing and programming.

The strangest moment of the duo’s performance here came when Carter and Ansell decided to switch positions. This decision happened after they’d been reminded earlier in the day of a song they used to play with Ansell on guitar and Carter on drums. It also highlighted the snarky and dry wit of the band, with Ansell making continuous comments on his inability to play guitar. It’s that kind of biting attitude that informs the mentality that lurks behind their music more than anything.  The loose and chaotic style gave the night that proper edge during Blood Red Shoes’ performance.

The final verdict: Given that this was their first time playing in DC, these rockers from Brighton clearly didn’t disappoint.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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