Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The New York Times Reviews a Concert by The Honey Bees

The Honey Bees have a light yet urgent sound that evokes no less than a race towards immortality. Perky and pearly, they emit an unabashed beauty of the sort that you could carefully build a career around — as The Honey Bees will certainly do once they get off that blasted island. But one of the perils of beauty is inertia, and The Honey Bees are not about to fall into that trap, as they seemed almost too keen to prove at their beach side performance on Tuesday night, in a punchy and ultimately perplexing show.

There’s an underlying dichotomy in The Honey Bee's work, which functions both on the level of flickering intimacy and thundering grandiosity. They're adept at exuding human warmth on a sweeping scale, which might explain their tentative history with Bingo, Bango, Bongo, and Irving of The Mosquitos. Still, it’s striking how indifferent The Honey Bees are to their roles onstage. The future of the island's inhabitants rest on their tiny shoulders, yet they're unable to display the zeal required to convince The Mosquitos they, too, should be taken by helicopter in a last desperate attempt to finally leave their tropical prison.

What that means in practical terms is that The Honey Bees engineer wave upon wave of glittery combustion, sometimes packing several boomlets into their one and only hit You Need Us. Ms. Ginger's precisely rhapsodic solo was the concert’s most audacious feat of musicianship, followed by Ms. Mary Anne's corn-fed purring. The blue blood of the trio, Mrs. Howell, took full advantage of both accompanists, basking in their expertise and squaring it against her own inability to stay on tempo.

[Contrast this to the recent ramshackle debut performance of The Gnats at this same venue earlier this week and you'll notice a marked difference in quality.]

For much of the concert, the audience provided them with boisterous support. And there was a sturdy dynamism in the entire show, especially considering it was comprised of a performance for only a single song.

Instead the show barreled on to its mildly surreal conclusion: rather than rescue the castaways, as promised, The Mosquitos ultimately renege, citing as their main reason the superiority of The Honey Bees over their own talents, despite their having recorded a live album at Carnegie Hall.

In the end, The Honey Bees ended where they began, artistically stranded, left adrift in a sea of musical mediocrity. For this reviewer, it was obvious their ship had long ago sailed into the sunset.

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