Tal Wilkenfeld Painting Out Of Her Corner
April 19, 2016 @ 12:00am
When rock music moved from the club and the theater into the arena space in the late 60s, the music often made shifts to accompany the spatial adjustments. It isn’t a coincidence that the late 60s and the 70s saw the rise of groups like Yes, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, groups whose music was elastic and expansive enough to fill every nook and cranny of a 20,000 seat arena. Most arena-ready rock made since then may have the braggadocio, the swagger, and the volume to aspire to trailblazers like the Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but rarely have the all-encompassing, embracing sound that signifies the true ability to “fill” an arena. Pummeling your audience with volume, forcing your sound into every cavity of the crowd and cavernous halls, is not the same as letting your music flow naturally into those spaces.
The music being made by Tal Wilkenfeld, the young Australian bassist and bandleader who cut her chops in bands led by Chick Corea and Jeff Beck, is some of that old school, powerful and fulfilling arena-ready rock music. This is not music to pump your fist to; its music that you allow yourself to be overwhelmed by, that you allow yourself to sink into and almost drown in. Joined by Chris Price on guitar and keyboards, Tamir Barzilay on drums and Owen Barry on bass (and occasional guitar) the four piece led by Tal channeled a classic rock sound, which was appropriate, considering she was opening for The Who and that aspired an epic, fill-every-square-inch-of-the-arena-with-vibrations performance.
Those who know Wilkenfeld’s work with Corea, Beck, Herbie Hancock and her first solo effort, Transformations, probably did a double take at the audience of the Verizon Center on March 24. She is a fusion player, so that idea of synthesis is still clearly present in the music, but it has less of the implicit “jazz” element of fusion. However, it certainly fused many disparate elements of the rock canon together. The night’s penultimate song, “Fistful of Glass,” sounded like power pop if done by the early 70s Fairport Convention, who turned the distortion, reverb and psychedelia up to 11.
If anything, the music is almost closer to a mix of the kind of emotionally charged yet amorphous post-rock music made by groups like Sigur Ros or Godspeed You Buplack Emperor!, with dashes of classic rock vis-à-vis Deep Purple and Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure. As a guitar player, Price often conjured reminders of David Gilmour: his solos, especially the bluesy slide solo on “Under the Sun,” which captured the primal scream of the blues, but echoed through the vacuum of space.
As a singer, Wilkenfeld also exuded the spirit of Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny. There’s an eerie, ethereal echo that naturally accompanies her vocals that makes it sound just right when pushed through a megaton arena rock set of speakers. She’s also a first class bass player, but displays her clear virtuosity in more underhanded ways. Well, let me put it this way: when was the last time you saw a bass player play chords?
Wilkenfeld and her group may have crafted a fusion, prog/post rock sound that fills arenas like bread rising in a pan, but her performance still bears the signs of a person unused to helming the physical space of the arena. But, there were moments that showed Wilkenfeld loosening up and growing accustomed to the space of the arena stage. During the night’s final number, “Hard To Be Alone,” as Wilkenfeld sang the line “You can get out of this space, this glass house,” she motioned with her arm, symbolically conjuring the glass house in the space of the arena. She could use more moments like that, to learn how to engage with crowd from both inside the music itself and within the ideas of the songs too. She does that, and Talk Wilkenfeld will be a force to be reckoned with in rock music in the foreseeable future.
To learn more about Tal visit www.talwilkenfield.com, like her on Facebook@talwilkenfeld, follow her on Twitter @talwilkenfeld and Instagram @talmeastory
Under the Sun
Standing in the Rain
Fistful of Glass
Hard to be Alone
Photo courtesy www.talwilkenfeld.com