I’ve seen many strange shows in my life, up to and including Electric Frankenstein playing the Bloomingdales men’s department. But few shows perplexed me more than Andrew W.K.’s recent “solo” show at Dingbatz in Clifton, NJ.
This was the second time I’ve seen Andrew W.K. live. The first, was at the Stone Pony, soon after “Party Hard” blew up. That show was significant in that Andrew had recently broken his leg and played the entire set in a wheel chair, bouncing up and down like a lunatic strapped to a straight jacket.
More than a decade later, Andrew W.K. is still selling out clubs (Dingbatz was packed beyond belief) and his party attitude and positive message still resonates with the unwashed masses clad in white from head to toe. I decided to embrace the power of party and plummeted myself deep into the crowd to get a good view of the madness.
First off, it should be noted that an Andrew W.K. solo show is not what most would consider a “solo” show. I’m not talking about an acoustic performance or just a set by Andrew and a piano. Instead, the musclebound warrior rocker was introduced by his bald-headed sidekick before taking his position at a piano at the back of the stage. Andrew proceed to play a rowdy, 45-minute set of “hits,” switching off vocal duties with his colleague and occasionally walking to the front of the stage to engage the crowd in a lyric or two. Meanwhile, a backing track played all the other instruments with the volume set to 4. It was basically the most un-intimate intimate show ever.
Not that the audience seemed to mind. They went ballistic from the first note of “It’s Time to Party,” screaming along to every word and crowdsurfing their way to the massive stage. Andrew W.K.’s message reverberated loud and clear — “Life is a party and it’s time to have fun.” At one point, the demigod of positivity got a ton of cheap heat by reimagining “I Love NYC” as “I Love New Jersey,” a song that served as a love letter to post-9/11 Manhattan. It was odd, but again, what wasn’t strange about this evening. At the half hour mark, Andrew dove head first into “Party Hard,” his anthemic ode to debauchery. Dingbatz exploded under the piped in bass and drums — you could literally feel your heart in your throat as kids bounced into each other for three minutes.
After what seemed like a 15 minute set, Andrew called for an encore by counting down from 100 with full audience participation. One hundred seconds later, Andrew obliged the crowd with “I Get Wet,” before disappearing into the back, never to be seen again. We slowly filed out, bewildered by what we had just experienced, shocked that he didn’t play longer (he skipped his hit “She is Beautiful”) and bummed that Andrew W.K. didn’t hang out to party with the plebeians. The good news? I was 10 minutes away from home and it was only 9pm. Good times.