Recently I had the privilege of seeing Haim live, at what has now become my all-time favorite music venue for national acts, The Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix. Having already seen some great shows there, including The Psychedelic Furs a few months back, what was so amazing about this show was that it was sold out to a capacity crowd of 550 people.
The reason this is so unbelievable is that I was easily able to get tickets for the show a month in advance and just over a week prior to the show Haim’s debut album had beat out Justin Timberlake’s new offering 20/20 for the number one album spot in the UK.
This shows how fundamentally the music industry has changed since the advent of the MP3 revolution. Imagine trying to get tickets for Bon Jovi 25 years earlier while their album New Jersey was flying near the top of the charts at a venue this size. (Of course, I do not like to even think of that hypothetical because Bon Jovi sucks, but you get the point.)
The opening act was IO Echo, like Haim, also from Los Angeles and considering that already this year they had played Coachella, Lollapalozza and had opened for Garbage and Bloc Party, it’s amazing how few people showed up for their set. They might disagree but I found IO Echo’s sound very grounded in the shoegaze sound of the early 90s of bands such as Lush, but maybe that was just the ethereal dream pop sound of lead singer Ionna Gika‘s voice.
Having said that, I’m a huge fan of Lush, shoegaze and Dream Pop so needless to say I very much enjoyed their set.
Next, after a rather long intermission, Haim took the stage at around 10:00 pm. They started the set with one of their hits from the new album and the immediate thing that resonated with me is just how amazing these three sisters are. Este Haim, in particular, shone on this number as in this rendition the bass was much more prevalent than the album version. What was also amazing is the multiple instrumentation including keyboards and drums that Haim plays in their live shows because this fact is not readily apparent from their music videos.
They showed off their musical abilities again when they had a little jam session a couple of songs later. For a second I thought lead guitarist and vocalist Danielle Haim had taken on the form of Randy Rhoads circa 1981 which also gave me the confidence to believe rock and roll is not dead. A presence like, Darth Vader in “Star Wars: A New Hope,” I had not felt since…Probably the late 90s.
The girls continued to wow with their musicianship for a couple more songs from their debut when they got to what was for me the highlight of the show: “Forever.” I’m sure the band is tired of hearing about this song but the first time I heard it I deemed it a “modern new wave classic” and listened to it repeatedly for practically an entire day.
“Forever” is truly a classic, and one of the best songs of the past fifteen years. So it’s no wonder that I was ecstatic that I was able to finally hear it live. Little Alana, the youngest of the three sisters, harmonizing beautifully not 30 feet away.
As a sidebar and speaking of harmonizing, the most cited classic rock comparison I hear in comparisons to Haim is Fleetwood Mac and I do not hear the similarities at all. For me, the most apt “classic rock” comparison is the Laurel Canyon music scene in Los Angeles. Specifically the mid 60s era that saw The Mamas and Papas, Crosby Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell routinely hanging out and collaborating. The reason I make this comparison is Haim’s ability to harmonize amazingly, like both The Mamas and Papas and Crosby and company and their music also has an underlying folk feel, ala Joni Mitchell.
No matter what you think go out and pick up, download or whatever people do these days Haim’s new album: Days are Gone. It is at once retro yet progressive, folk yet rock, cerebral yet poppy and fun.
Days are Gone, possesses, quite simply, just some of the best songs to be released in the popular music lexicon in quite some time.
Haim on Late Night w/David Letterman
Here’s Haim from a show earlier this summer.