What keeps Waterfall, the band’s seventh album and the first in four years, from sinking into a kind of earnest, overly precious, 1970s lite rock muck is that James’s many influences are a mist and not a downpour.
Violet- and orchid-colored LED banks shimmer across the room. Green and pink spots radiate out and back. A steady stream of beats and keyboards from other electronica luminaries rumbles out of the speakers. Let's dance! Or maybe just listen?
Onstage, Dan Deacon is busy tweaking his gear. Out on the floor, the audience is oddly antsy. To fight the waiting, one woman hangs on her boyfriend. Clumps of hipsters conviviate. Very strong drinks (a sponsorship deal?) flow for seven bucks a pop. Anticipation thickens. Impatience turns to pacing. Young men make solo air grooves.
He is easily among the most accomplished and influential slide-guitar players ever to put a ring of glass or metal around his finger. In 1977, on the golden record carried by the space probe Voyager, alongside the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony 5 and recordings of "footsteps, heartbeat, and laughter," his greatest song, "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" went off to represent humanity to the stars.