STEREOLAB at the Phoenix, November 4. Tickets: $18. Attendance: 1,000 (sold out). Rating: NNN
several years ago they established their sombre tone and clinical approach to their live shows, so the only real surprise at a Stereolab show is the set list.There will be no radical reinterpretations of songs or frivolous moments of self-indulgence. Instead, at the Phoenix Sunday, as they've done almost every time they've played here, the London space pop group concentrated on delivering a compact, efficient 80 minutes of blurping electro tunes. The only major difference was their peculiar choice of material.
Playing nothing older than 1994's Ping Pong, the 'Lab sacrificed some of their more rhythmic, jangly moments for delicate chamber sounds. Minus the elaborate orchestrations, though, the more sweeping headphone soundscapes from Stereolab's recent Sound-Dust disc sounded extremely flat in the Phoenix.
Vocalist Laetitia Sadier's attempt to jazz things up by honking on a trombone as a kind of one-woman horn section was a nice touch, but it didn't do much to stir up the crowd patiently waiting for something exciting to occur.
The only time the set did take off was on the older, more propulsive material. Kicked forward by a surprisingly heavy rhythm section, the Groop's churning jam through the dub funk of Metronomic Underground could have gone on for 45 minutes, and marked the only time Sadier, guitarist Tim Gane and keyboardist Mary Hansen seemed to lose themselves in the music.
Clearly, the full house braying for Super Electric and a second encore could have used more of that.