R. Stevie Moore

Irving Plaza NYC (Live 1985)

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R. Stevie Moore is both so prolific and so eclectic that it's not difficult for him to devote full albums or live sets to a style of music that's of only occasional interest to him. This explains Irving Plaza NYC (Live 1985); this gig, recorded May 11, 1985, was an opening slot for the New York art punk group Blurt. Although Moore's a facile pure pop songwriter, he's always harbored a more experimental streak, and in front of a receptive audience, he and his band (bassist Chris Bolger, drummer Lee Miller, and tape manipulator/second vocalist Frank Balesteri) forgo the pop songs almost entirely. (Even the two familiar tunes, "I Wish I Could Sing" and "Apropos Joe," are reworked to fit in with the evening's prevailing musical ethos, and the set closer is a hyperspeed version of "Chantilly Lace" that rushes past in a hardcore blur lasting less than 60 seconds.) Instead, the quartet plays for a full 40 minutes, shifting from one song to another fluidly in the manner of classic Mothers of Invention, with most of the songs being lengthy improvisations on some basic frameworks that the band used a lot around this time, including the psychedelic, guitar-heavy "Kaleidoscopics" and the funky, bass-driven "Eating Paper, Drinking Ink." The bandmembers had been playing together off and on for some time by this point, and are intuitive enough to shape these extended improvs into something more than formless jams, but as entertaining as this sort of thing is to some, Irving Plaza NYC (Live 1985) isn't for those R. Stevie Moore fans only interested in his sharp, catchy pop songs.

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