Melodrome delivers its live promise
by Seth Rogovoy

(PITTSFIELD, Mass., November 3, 2002) – Earlier this year local band Melodrome released “The Sidewalk Ends,” a self-produced album of the band’s original soul-drenched rock that ranks with the best albums of the year. In its first set at La Choza on Saturday night, the band showed that not only can it write good songs and make a great-sounding album – it can also bring the songs to life on the stage and make exciting, dynamic live music.

Fronted by singer-songwriter Robby Baier, the quartet was lean, tight and versatile within the band’s well-defined sound, an axis that begins with the Beatles, runs through ‘70s soul and the Rolling Stones at their funkiest, and winds up approximately in contemporary U2 territory.

In the basement nightclub, performing in front of a healthy, buzzing crowd, Baier and band threw themselves into the music as if they were on the stage at the Pepsi Arena in front of 18,000. Baier was an energetic frontman, singing with passion and fervor in a voice that veered from Mick Jagger-like white funk to Bono-like white soul, especially in the falsetto register that he often swooped into.

With Melodrome, Baier has surrounded himself with able and sympathetic accompanists. Guitarist Darren Todd sprinkled Keith Richards-like crunch into “Crush,” with bassist Jesko Stahl popping some very funky, Bill Wymanesque bass lines, giving the song a “Miss You”// “Emotional Rescue” feel, with drummer Matt Sloan in lockstep the whole way.

Baier poured his soulful falsetto into “Just Like That,” a slow soul rocker on which he doubled guitar with Todd. “The Sidewalk Ends” was built on a riff right out of Marvin Gaye or Al Green, with Todd coloring psychedelic lines through the dreamy soundscape. The musicians all lent Beatlesque harmonies to most of the numbers.

If Melodrome had any flaw, it was that its unique sound -- its blend of pop melodicism, soul and rock crunch -- was almost monochromatic, with little variation from song to song. But it’s a very seductive chromaticism nonetheless, and in this way its weakness is also its strength. Melodrome has a terrifically well-defined sound, and no small modicum of star quality. It’s probably the best band in the Berkshires at this very moment, and one that listeners of all colors and stripes could probably rally around and champion on its inevitable path up and out of here.

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on November 6, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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