Music review: Kitten at the Rock and Roll Hotel

Chloe Chaidez, courtesy of Kitten.
Chloe Chaidez, courtesy of Kitten.

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2014 − When Kitten took the stage at the Rock and Roll Hotel recently, the face of the band and really the only relevant focal point for the audience was its founding spirit, Chloe Chaidez. So why even bother with billing her show as a performance by a band named Kitten?

It’s all a matter of public perception. When it comes to popular music acts, the importance of “being a band” can’t be overstated, whether you’re talking about a live performance or one that’s recorded.

There’s nothing wrong with being an obvious solo act, of course, particularly in the indie pop/rock world, where the music always feels more intimate. But the “being a band” thing is still a never-ending wormhole one has to face when becoming a musical performer.

That’s the main reason why there are still musicians who hold on to the guise of a band instead of say an alternate musical identity. Which gets us back to Kitten.

It would be unfair to say that Kitten is simply a false front for a Chloe Chaidez solo project. After all, producer and co-songwriter Chad Anderson has always remained a constant in the background of Kitten, helping mold the different iterations of the band during its brief lifespan.

But that said, when people think of Kitten and when they buy tickets to see Kitten, they still tend to view it as an extension of Chloe Chaidez.

When Kitten started out back in 2010, Chaidez was very much the focal point of the band, even though it might not have been the intention to make this her project. With the departures and returns and repeat departures of several key band figures, however−all of which went on before Kitten released its first self-titled full length album−it gradually became apparent what the focal point of this band is all about.

If all this chaotic background story makes it sound like there was a big internal struggle for control of the band, that notion isn’t really accurate. The ascension of Chaidez seems to have been Kitten’s destiny all along. The longer the band’s profile centers on her, the better off things will likely prove to be.

The sheer presence of Chaidez on stage is probably why her main cohort within Kitten remains in the background. It seems impossible to take light away from the dynamic profile Chaidez cuts on stage. Anyone else in the band who might have visions of sharing the spotlight is likely going to feel stifled.

As a result, both Kitten’s lineup and Kitten’s sound have evolved in a way that further enhances the visibility of Chaidez. Early on, the band put out a sound that was akin to ‘80s post-punk with slight new wave touches, which had a lot to do with catching the tail end of the genre’s revival in 2010. But as Chaidez’ vocals started to evoke more of early ‘80s Blondie-era Deborah Harry and mid to late ‘80s Madonna, Kitten has moved more in the direction of electro-pop.

All this ultimately benefits Chaidez and Kitten as a musical entity. This direction encompasses growing electro-pop sensibilities. Taking advantage of that allows Chaidez to dictate her own musical image, and even now it’s enabling her to constantly evolve.

That, in turn, fits what she’s putting across during her mesmerizing, live, which is likewise in constant motion. Evolving right along with her, Kitten’s supporting musicians underscore her subtle shifts, adding the perfect musical and symbolic touches that enhance Chaidez’ charismatic approach.

Kitten’s collaborative approach also allows the band to take some of the burden off its star performer. She doesn’t have to carry each show’s entire burden and can lean on the band to help make her vocal performance that much fuller and more complete.

While the ever-morphing Kitten might shift into something still different in the future, right now it’s the ideal vehicle to support, accompany and enhance the phenomenon of Chloe Chaidez.

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