Live Last Night Weekend Report, Part 2: Child Ballads Bomb


Stewart Lupton, more unfulfilled promise.

On Friday night the kids were alright, but on Saturday night Stewart Lupton most certainly was not. A decade or so ago Lupton was a star in the making, lead singer of consensus Next Big Thing Jonathan Fire*Eater. They were the Strokes before the Strokes, but a predictable collection of problems - too much too soon, low album sales, substance abuse - derailed the band. But mostly it derailed Lupton. Three members of the D.C.-rooted quintet went on to experience plenty of "O.C."-approved success with the Walkmen while Lupton simply disappeared. He reemerged within the past couple years with a new band, the Child Ballads. The organ-fueled garage rock of JF*E was gone in favor of ragged folk, Lupton's lyrics remained as memorable as ever and the six-song "Cheekbone Hollows" EP represented his best work yet.

The band's CD release show on Saturday night, at the odd locale of upscale Chevy Chase D.C. pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong, should have been a triumph, as it was celebrating Lupton's first album release in 11 years. Instead, it was a disaster. And that would be putting it kindly. A large crowd was on hand but people started to file out even before Lupton finished his first song, a barely recognizable solo version of "Green Jewelry" that featured incomprehensible vocals and some seriously shoddy guitar playing. And it was all downhill from there.

Even with a three-piece band backing him to presumably give him some support, there was none to be found. His band members had eyes locked on the ground throughout, probably too embarrassed to see Lupton in the state he was in or the quickly dwindling number of audience members. Instead of playing songs from the album they drifted through a 20-minute free-form piece that saw Lupton stumble across the stage, fall down a handful of times, continuously adjust the microphone without ever singing into it, complain about the sound, and so on. He was in no condition to stand upright, let alone perform, and any hopes that he had gotten his act together for what should have been a big night quickly disappeared. It all seemed lost on him, too.

"You can clap now," he said to the shrinking number of audience members after ending something that remotely resembled an actual song. A few people complied, but mostly the couple dozen folks left just stood there looking depressed.

And that's exactly how to describe the show - depressing. Discomforting and embarrassing would also work, but mostly depressing. The talent has always been there for Lupton but instead of harnessing it he's fallen prey to the most classic of rock-n-roll clichés. A night that should have represented a fresh start instead was just another mini-failure. I was standing next to the merchandise booth for most of the night and didn't see a single person purchase the Child Ballads album. Which is too bad because it's a legitimately excellent collection of songs. But it was hard to blame people for not wanting to contribute any money to Lupton's cause after seeing him on stage.

By David Malitz |  April 22, 2008; 3:59 PM ET Live Last Night
Previous: Live Last Night Weekend Report, Part 1: Double Dagger Delivers | Next: Please Explain to Me ... My Bloody Valentine's 'Loveless'

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



That's too bad about Lupton's show. JF*E was an exciting band and he was a big reason why. Does he get another chance down the line? How was that space for a show by the way?

Posted by: T.D. | April 23, 2008 10:27 AM

give me a break. go and see them play on may 2 at black cat with the kills. one show does not an artist make- and i was there. he didn't fall, the mike stand did. and the house was full tll the end.
AND, i heard from the merch girl that they sold CD's in double digits.
whew.
a monument has never been erected to a critic.
wonder why?

Posted by: mary | April 23, 2008 11:26 PM

and in the name of plurality, check this one out from the brilliant dennis cooper

www.denniscooper-theweaklings.blogspot.com/

Posted by: mary | April 23, 2008 11:30 PM

Lupton was a mess- this review is pretty spot on.

The music that the band played (in the absence of his vocal leadership) sounded not bad though. Any one recognize Brendan Canty of Fugazi on drums? How did they get him to help out at the meltdown?

Posted by: Geoff | April 24, 2008 1:28 AM

THE CHILD BALLADS WERE THE MOST COMPELLING PHENOMENA I HAVE SEEN SINCE GIVING BIRTH. IF THERE IS ANYONE ALIVE TODAY ON THIS COLD ROCK HURLING THROUGH SPACE THAT HAS INHERITED THE MANTLE OF LORD BYRON ( COMPLETE WITH THE GLORY, HUMOUR , SUFFERING, HUMOUR MADE FROM SAID SUFFERING, AND HEART STOPPING-SHOW STOPPING, GOD GIVEN TALENT, AS WELL AS INNER SENSE OF DAMNATION AND A FACE SO BEAUTIFUL TO BLOCK OUT THE SUN) IT IS STEWART LUPTON. SURE, HE'S AN EASY TARGET. A HISTORY OF SELF DESTRUCTION, POETRY AWARDS AND A CERTAIN, INIMITABLE ' TOUCHED' WAY ABOUT HIM , COMBINED WITH HIT OR MISS SHOWS, HAVE MADE HIM A POPULAR CHAT ROOM RELIGIOUS FIGURE /PUNCHLINE. NEVERTHELESS, THE MAN HAS "IT." WATCHING LUPTON ON A BAD NIGHT IS LIKE WATCHING ALI LOOSE A FIGHT. IT STILL BEATS THE LIVING S H I Tut OF 80% OF THE PROPHETS OF MEDIOCRITY THAT ARE CLOGGING THE ARTERIES OF ROCK AND ROLL. SCREW ALL THE NAYSAYERS, THEY ARE LOWERE THAN THE PEPPER SPRAY LISTON PUT ON HIS GLOVES TO BLIND HIS OPPONENTS. THEY FORGET THAT LUPTON CAN DANCE. THE MAN CAN DANCE MOST FRONTMEN IN CIRCLES WHILE RECITING 'CHILDE HAROLDE' PT.S 3 AND 4. HE TRULY TRULY HAS IT. ALL HE WANTS TO DO IS PASS IT ON, GIVE IT TO YOU, GIVE YOU A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. HE IS BACK. MANY HAVE FELT A RECENT DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE. THE MAN IS BACK AND HIS DANCING SHOES ARE SHINED. I THINK HE MIGHT LOVE US. LET HIM
JOE FRAZIER | 05.05.08 - 1:28 am

Posted by: joe frazier | May 5, 2008 1:33 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company