March 25th, 2012, 12:35 pm · · posted by BEN WENER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
I’m more than a little late saying anything about the Ting Tings‘ Thursday night show at the Mayan Theater, but that’s no reflection on the performance itself, which was both remarkable and rousing.
Remarkable because it was so improbably solid, considering the act’s female half, Katie White, had her appendix removed roughly a week earlier. Her recovery led to the relocation of the English duo’s L.A. appearance, consolidating two gigs at El Rey Theatre down to one at the Mayan. (Gone was the relative intimacy of the former spot, but I bet footage from this plays better on an inevitable Last Call bit.)
Impressively, you never would have guessed lithe White had been under the knife recently — she can get a lot rowdier, sure, but she hardly held back, strutting across the stage plenty (with or without her guitar) and more than a few times hopping off the drum riser in her short-shorts and thigh-highs, all while showing no signs of fatigue or discomfort.
That sight is rousing enough. Add in her penchant for blending kittenish pique with b-girl street feel (she could be a Pussycat Doll but she really wants to be a Beastie Boy) and drummer Jules de Martino’s lock-steady dance jams, concocted between bouts of beat programming and shards of strapped-on martial funk guitar, and what results is irresistible.
Their sound unabashedly Cuisinarts heaps of electro-pop trends past and present, and educated ears should easily spot the references, heavy not just on the Beasties (check the “Hey Ladies!” sample) but also the super-cheerful urgency of the B-52′s (particularly on the close-quarter rave-up “Give It Back”) as well as the groove impressionism of the Tom Tom Club.
Yet, as evidenced by their strong new sophomore effort, the varied Sounds from Nowheresville, their slow progression (“We took our time to make a second album, to say the least,” White admitted) is paying off: By taking their time — and taking more and more influences in — the Ting Tings are developing into their own rhythmic force to be reckoned with.
De Martino, it dawned on me Thursday night, is arguably the more crucial component in that success; he’s the engine, Katie’s the frame, and the fit is virtually factory sealed. You can feel an equanimity in their playing now that wasn’t there the first (or third) time they came ’round. The many times I saw them while pushing their deliriously fun debut We Started Nothing, at venues as small as clubs and as large as Staples Center (where they were convincing as opener for Pink in 2009), it was hard not to direct focus on White, no matter how deftly de Martino would dart from instrument to instrument.
White, however, is another of the many modern English songbirds sprung from last decade’s bumper crop. Her pose (and poise) is pitched somewhere between the sass ‘n’ snarl of M.I.A. and the aloof wit of Lily Allen, maybe with a dash of Kate Nash. She’s more robotic in her delivery than any of them, yet alluringly so; it wasn’t random that she started Thursday’s set not like a just-zapped live wire but methodically, dramatically, down on her knees and encircled in a lone spotlight to sing “Silence.”
The main set felt framed by attempts at moods more probing than the giddy joy of “That’s Not My Name” or “Shut Up and Let Me Go.” And it worked: The finish of “Hands” (before the former song in the encore) was the most startling rush of the night, a heady gust of serious electronic power that impacted the room like Daft Punk cranked to chest-rattling volume. I didn’t think the Ting Tings had that in ‘em, but it proves they can master both extremes — mega electro and stripped-down garage-rock.
That they also have a knack for infectiously simple singles — the rare sort: gleeful enough to make a 5-year-old bounce but bangin’ enough to get a club to go off — well, that just sets them apart all the more.
Setlist: The Ting Tings at the Mayan Theater, Los Angeles, March 22, 2012
Main set: Silence / Great DJ / Hang It Up / Give It Back / Guggenheim / Hit Me Down Sonny / We Walk / Fruit Machine / Shut Up and Let Me Go / Hands
Encore: That’s Not My Name
Photos by David Hall, for the Orange County Register.
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