Thursday, April 5, 2012

Andrew W.K. at Webster Hall

Is there a more joyful celebration of life than an Andrew W.K. show? After last Monday at Webster Hall, I can't think of one.

In the 10 years since I Get Wet made Andrew W.K. a party-rock icon, that album has gained enough stature to earn a 10th anniversary tour. The show was a confirmation of I Get Wet's universality, a 36-minute blast of fist-pumping energy and stadium-sized screamalong choruses. Every song, from "It's Time to Party" through "Party Hard" to "Party 'Til You Puke" and "Long Live the Party" drilled in Andrew's mission to welcome every being in the room to a party of Disney World's proportions and CBGB's intimacy.

The word "exuberant" doesn't even begin to describe an Andrew W.K. performance. Possibly the most contagiously cheerful entertainer in the world, Andrew bounced, flailed and grinned through every one of I Get Wet's classics. For almost the entire show, the stage was crowded with rushers, dancers and crowd surfers from the audience, sharing mics, high-fives and hugs with Andrew and the band. He was happy to oblige every attendee, thanking and encouraging us between the occasional story about someone throwing up. Outside of Iggy Pop, no major rock star can claim to obliterate the barrier between fans and artists as much as Andrew does, both in his inclusive messages and boundless enthusiasm.

His energy alone is remarkable, but to have it boosted by songs like "I Love NYC" and "We Want Fun" made the night extraordinary. A new song, "Head Bang," plus its accompanying dance, deserves to be played at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. For all the chaos, the show never got out of control--mosh pit violence and security-forced ejections could have prematurely ended a lesser show, but Andrew and his band commanded enough positivity to keep everyone wildly cordial.

Andrew's lyrics, particularly "She is Beautiful" and "Never Let Down," are earnest enough to keep his music grounded, which gives his songs a sense of reality that eludes the pop-metal escapists he's often compared to. On stage and in the studio, he trumps nearly all of them--it's hard to think of anything, even from party-metal's '80s prime, that comes close to I Get Wet.
The past ten years have seen Andrew branch out to TV shows, motivational speaking and classical piano, but his show proved that he may still be most valuable as a party animal. When he chanted "We're gonna have a fun night!" during one of the evening's most unforgettable choruses, he was being modest. My guess is that everyone there carried the buzz for at least a few days.

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