Live Review

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Black Cat, Washington DC

It feels like a wall of sound is washing over you lovingly.

Humility is a virtue hard to find in the music business. And few frontmen are as humble as the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kip Berman. On the final and only sold-out date of a 2-week American tour where they were supported by New York City’s Hooray for Earth and West Palm Beach, Florida’s Surfer Blood, the lanky Berman was quick to point out that not merely were they good musicians to have along for a tour but how nice they were as people. Simple things like this declaration, along with spontaneous hugging sessions at this particular show, make a band like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart positively down to earth and give gig-goers a warm feeling even before you consider the actual performance.

It all begins with drummer Kurt Feldman sitting behind his kit, shaking a tambourine to Berman singing the lyrics to ‘Contender’ wistfully while strumming on his Fender Jaguar. Maybe this explains their being called the American Smiths, but this is most definitely an unusually gentle way to start an otherwise lively set. As can be expected, the New York City band’s kind of indie pop attracts couples old and very young, as well as anyone who has a romantic bone in their body. So it’s no surprise that the band sells out what Berman insists is their favourite place to play in the Nation’s Capital.

The band play most of the songs off their 2009 critically acclaimed, self-titled album, the audience happily bopping along to the beats (as much as they can in the packed sea of bodies) and swaying to the jangly guitars as if to mimic bass player Alex Naidus’s smooth moves onstage. The guitars are unearthly gorgeous on ‘Higher Than the Stars’ (the title track from an EP the band released last autumn). Close your eyes for a moment, and it feels like the wall of sound is washing over you lovingly.

Driving backbeats from drummer Feldman are spot on and full speed ahead in ‘Stay Alive’, with Berman and keyboardist Peggy Wang espousing, ‘don’t you try to shoot up the sky, shoot up the sky tonight… we’ll stay alive’. The ambiguity of the lyrics benefit rather than detract from the overall message that you might feel alone but don’t worry, there is always hope. And what indie kid hasn’t felt loneliness? Or heartbreak for that matter? ‘Everything with You’, one of the band’s radio hits, is flawless, Berman with his feet planted firmly on the stage in an Elvis-like pose to wail like nobody’s business during the bridge. Breathtaking.

The band also preview two new tracks – the slightly redundant mouthful ‘The Heart in Your Heartbreak’ and the (per usual for the Pains) sweetly-titled ‘Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now’; judging from audience reaction, these are well on their way to becoming fan favourites, as does their latest single released in America, ‘Say No to Love’, to be released in the UK on Fortuna Pop on 29th July. It’s entirely up to you if you want to heed the band’s advice on matters of the heart, but say yes to their live show. Because you won’t be disappointed.

Read More

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay Updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.

Latest Issue

April 2024

With Bob Vylan, St Vincent, girl in red, Lizzy McAlpine and more.

Read Now Buy Now Subscribe to DIY