Gig Review: TORTOISE Live in KL 2014

Tortoise band live at Bentley Mutiara Damansara in Kuala Lumpur KL Malaysia

Genius band of veterans from Chicago impresses Malaysian crowd with an epic performance

These old tortoises ain’t slow, they’re can be really fast and loud whenever they want to ’cause they’re mad… mad good. Presented by Soundscape Records, this 24-year-old five-piece indie instrumental band from Chicago left the crowd at Bentley Music Auditorium in Mutiara Damansara (Petaling Jaya, Selangor) wanting a second encore (or rather, a third set), and I was one of them chanting along for more. These uncles may be “old-timers”, but they sure rock way better than most of the younger bands I’ve seen.

Jeff Parker and Dan Bitney on marimba with Doug McCombs on bass - Tortoise band live at Bentley Mutiara Damansara in Kuala Lumpur KL MalaysiaI have to be honest, I’m no musician, can’t play any instruments and I’ve never heard of Tortoise before I got the kind invitation from Soundscape Records, but as soon I heard a few of their tracks on YouTube, I just knew I have to watch this band play live, and I didn’t regret it. My only regret was that I didn’t get to hear their albums and familiarise their songs before attending the concert.

Tortoise has always been classified as a post-rock outfit but the truth is, it’s hard to name one genre that this progressive band plays. To me, it’s more like a groovy fusion of jazz, noise rock, experimental and electronica. Its members of different backgrounds – Doug McCombs, John Herndon, John McEntire, Dan Bitney and Jeff Parker – are so multitalented that they could smoothly switch the mood and genre in their songs, while some of them take turns on different instruments. It’s amazing how they could drop the beat then timely hitting back up the tempo all together with ease.

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Although there were some minor mistakes (most obvious ones were by Parker during the catchy tune Prepare Your Coffin), it’s forgivable when their compositions are understandably difficult to perform perfectly every single time. They’re just incredibly impressive and fun to watch, even though they don’t really move their bodies or interact with crowd much. And they’re not just good to people who likes non-mainstream stuff ’cause even my girlfriend, who’s a mandarin pop fan, enjoyed it just as much and we were just moving and smiling to the music for the entire one-hour-plus.

I assume these fellows haven’t won a Grammy award only because they’ve stayed underground. Either that or they’re just too difficult to categorise. They may have been around since 1990, but it’s still not too late for Tortoise to gain more exposure worldwide. It’s time this band is heard.

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