On a warm summer night in Hoboken, NJ, a small and appreciative crowd packed in to the backroom of Maxwell’s Bar and Grill for an intimate evening of dark-wave dance with She Wants Revenge. Before the main event, opener Nico Vega captivated the crowd with their high-energy, aggressive performance. A three-piece from LA, Nico Vega makes a big sound with just drums, guitar, and vocalist Aja Volkman’s husky, yet forceful, voice.
The band powered through an eight-song set, each song sounding like a call to arms as Volkman — in a floor-length bespangled white chemise — alternated between the wild, passionate gestures of a revolutionary, and the smiling warmth of an old friend. The sharp, thudding beat songs like “African” or “Beast,” give their rough-rock sound an edge, and showcase the band’s versatility in contrast to the slow awakening of their opener “Protest.” Filling out their set with the punk love-angst of “So So Fresh,” or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs-like “Gravity,” Nico Vega started the night right.
When the stage lights grew a bit dimmer, She Wants Revenge — Justin Warfield, vocals/guitar; Adam Brevin, bass/keyboards; and accompanying members Thomas Froggett on guitar and Scott Ellis on drums — quietly took the stage for a 90-minute set that leaned heavily on their engaging new release, Valleyheart. Although the album has only been out a week, the devoted audience was already familiar with the songs and singing along.The band made up the set as they went along, taking a moment to conference between songs and re-tune as need. The relaxed format made the show feel like a casual gathering of friends, rather than a more formal performance. Starting off with Valleyheart opener “Take the World,” the band’s moody trance settled over the swaying audience until the swank and stomp of new song “Up in Flames” got the dancers moving. The beat continued through “Reasons,” but quickly shifted gears for “Little Stars,” a pensive song debating whether to take back a lover who has strayed.
The highlight of the show was their 2006 hit “Tear You Apart,” introduced by Brevin as “an old song played in a new way.” Warfield sang the verses and chorus in a more soulful voice than found on the recorded track, accompanied only by a straightforward guitar riff. The guitar dropped out as he got to the title line, and the audience screamed for him, “I want to fucking tear you apart!” Drums, bass, and guitar crashed in with greater gusto than the otherwise thin track can muster on disc, and the band barreled through the remaining chorus before abruptly cutting again to allow the audience to sing that signature line.
With just a few more songs to go, Warfield thanked the audience and encouraged a spontaneous dance party, which was gleefully achieved by set closer “Out of Control.” Inspired by the enthusiastic reception, Warfield led a sing-a-long on the last chorus, allowing a great crowd yell on the last lines: “We’re slaves to the DJ and we’re out of control!”
Nico Vega setlist:
So So Fresh
She Wants Revenge setlist
Take the World
Up in Flames
Maybe She’s Right
Tear You Apart
Red Flags and Long Nights
Must be the One
Out of Control