The Players: Dan Freeman: bass/vocals, Ken White: drums/laptops.
Material: Comandante Zero's music is a unique blend of 70s and 80s Disco, Funk and B52s style New Wave, with Dan Freeman's relaxed crooning vocal style somewhat reminiscent of Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet but with a bit more edge. They perform some covers from that era, as well as some original work, but their single is Leonard Cohen's 1992 song, "The Future," albeit performed quite differently from his version.
Both of the members are extremely adept at their instrument, while adding the technical challenge of having to work various computers and special effects at the same time. Ken White's timing needs to be remarkably solid in order to keep in sync with the various rhythm machines he plays alongside – as indeed it is. And Dan's fancy footwork, pushing buttons, vocalizing and simultaneously pumping out a mean slap bass technique are quite impressive.
Perhaps the Knitting Factory's tiny stage precluded the duo from bringing out the dancers they are known to employ, but the two young men occupied the space well enough visually, dressed as they were in an all white outfit, complete with fedora, vest and tie, for Dan, and a sleeveless tuxedo for Ken, which served to highlight his drummer's biceps, and contrast with his magnificent Afro.
For those who've heard other bands at the Tap Room, rarely is the sound quality as clean as it was for Comandante Zero. That's consistent, of course, with the tight arrangements and professional demeanor of this band. They came to entertain and one left with the feeling that they had succeeded.
But despite all the clever gimmicks and electronic wizardry the two had cooked up for the audience's benefit, the most effective tune was a short instrumental where none of that was present. They simply played the hell out of their instruments, bass and drums... beautiful!
Summary: Comandante Zero is an excellent band, which was not showcased to it best advantage at the Tap Room. Upstairs in the main room may have worked better, but maybe the Knitting Factory is not enough of a real "dance club" for them. Perhaps the scene has changed since the era which they evoke; one can only hope it is still lurking dormant within our psyches, ready to spring into full disco action at the next Comandante Zero gig.
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