Haim: You lead me to no other line

I don’t know if the Fillmore Miami Beach adjusted its mixing to give Este Haim a sound commensurate with the expressions which have set The Internetz ablaze, but it sure was high. The Filmore’s acoustics, suited for opera or theater, exert an erratic influence on rock bands, which is to say it was hard from my vantage point to distinguish between too many notes and a zealously mixed instrument. Whatever. The bass player, one-third of the sister group Haim, proved a formidable stage presence during yesterday night’s performance, responsible for the conventional stage patter (“Alright, MIAMI”) and the anecdotes that “personalize” relationships between bands and fans (hanging out at a crazy Y2K party in town when she was thirteen).

Days Are Gone is like She’s So Unusual, Boys from Pele, Pretenders, Contra: the kind of album you hear at the right age and press close against your chest, loving every second, judging subsequent albums against it, caring about these song as if they were friends. The sisters demonstrated no preciousness during their sixty-five-minute set, treating each song like a twelve-inch remix of itself. “Falling” got a ZZ Top-esque solo. Alana Haim, stage right for most of the performance, added extra percussion and synthesized fills. To treat songs like a series of interlocking but discrete parts and gears is the secret of a compelling live performance, and to their immense credit Haim play and look as if they can never get tired of playing this material, not when there’s a harmonic that has heretofore been left unembellished, a variant on a chord sequence undiscovered. How appropriate that these L.A. vets have absorbed Keith Richards’ adoration of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”; songs are palimpsests, not texts.

What the set also revealed was Haim’s impressive commitment to synthesizing warring elements. Rolling Stephen Morris-inspired toms and snares undergird the glam choruses of “The Wire” and “Falling.” Big booming glam choruses: think Gary Glitter or Mott the Hoople. Choruses designed for singing along, made complicated by rhythmic patterns that can’t stop calling attention to themselves. At times pure prettiness usurped power: the crinkled “Sweet Jane” hook of “Honey and I” first straightened into Fleetwood Mac’s “Honey Hi” before Danielle Haim’s eighth notes returned it to Reedlandia with a faint nod to “New Sensations.” Danielle switched without fuss from rhythm strumming to howling leads. Always the sisters relied on hip hop cadences for their vocal melodies.

In short, Haim is a band whose second album is going to be splendid or a splendid mess, with their live chops the essential caveat.

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