A couple of hundred people are packed into a Mercury Lounge that could have sold three times as many tickets tonight. It’s not because the headliner features Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, although that may have garnered the initial interest. No, tonight people simply wanted to be here because Little Joy have made a great album, released just a week before, on election day.
Moretti last year joined forces with Brazilian musician Rodrigo Amarante and diminutive vocalist Binki Shapiro and, together, the trio masterfully morphed together a sound as if The Strokes had decamped to a beach in Rio, hooked up with famed brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto and made a record under the stars. Tonight Amarante and Moretti sit side by side on the low stage, and open with the last song on the album, ‘Evaporar’, gently sung in Portuguese by the former and accompanied acoustically by the bearded latter. The room is shushed into silence with just a wave of nervous giggling among some girls at the front.
Shapiro’s vocals, a silky smooth blend of Nina Persson and Feist, ease softly into ‘Unattainable’, before being joined by Albert Hammond Jr’s drummer Matt Romano and The Dead Trees’ Todd Dahlhoff, who pick up the pace first with the charming, country-ish ‘Brand New Start’ then ‘The Next Time Around’, which even prompts some subtle shimmies from the cool kids at the back. The jangly guitars of ‘How To Hang A Warhol’ deem it the most Strokesy moment of the set, while a cover of ’60s songstress and Binki’s mother Helen Shapiro’s ‘Walking Back To Happiness’ reminds us of where tonight’s singer inherited her vocal prowess.
Amarante may assume the majority of the vocals, but it’s Moretti who takes charge of the between-song banter. His easy wit and ability to get the crowd going are something we rarely get to see when he’s behind the kit in his other band. It’s a little unusual to see him out front, yet despite an admission of pre-show nerves, he seems entirely comfortable taking the role of band spokesman. After playing the album in its entirety, and throwing in a new uplifting pop track, the band wrap up with the catchy ‘Keep Me In Mind’ and head off for the East Village aftershow party.Yes, The Strokes may be getting back together next year, but a debut album and a debut New York show later, we for one are hoping that Little Joy can stick around, too.