|There are a few rock performers who can command attention with the simplest of
gestures, a flick of the hand, a nod of the head, a fleeting smile. Sting has that
ability. So does David Bowie. Now, add Boris Grebenshikov to the list of those who can
dispense with the flashy, overblown theatrics and communicate solely through their music.
the first rock artist from the Soviet Union to sign an American recording contract, was at
the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village Tuesday night for two shows. If there were any people
in the club who thought the buzz surrounding Grebenshikov was merely hype, their minds
surely were changed by his mesmerizing performance.
Even Sting, who arrived at the early show several songs into the set, sat transfixed,
his toe tapping to the beat.
Grebenshikov, who owes his recent elevation to rock stardom in his homeland to
perestroika and his burgeoning American career to glasnost performed much of his show in
English. But even when he switched to Russian, as he did for several songs, it was easy to
decipher the mood of the music because of his delivery: fervent and bold when the rocking
beat demanded, quiet and restrained when the tempo changed for his folklike ballads.
The 35-year-old singer-songwriters repertoire was drawn primarily from his first
American album, "Radio Silence." But while a reserved air pervades the album,
the songs, in concert, took on a more dynamic, dramatic edge. Part of that could be
explained by the outstanding band supporting Grebenshikov on his whirlwind five-week
cross-country tour of the United States.
Bassist Sasha Titov from Grebenshikovs Russian band, Aquarium, solidly anchored the
rhythm section along with Israeli drummer Tal "Tao" Bergman. Percussionist par
excellence Steve Scales, who has performed with the Talking Heads, provided a sizzling
touch to the uptempo tunes, and, in tandem with keyboard player Delmar Brown (formerly of
Stings band), added atmosphere to such lovely songs as "The Wind" and
"Death of King Arthur."
Brown also responded with some piercing vocals that proved the perfect counterpoint to
Grebenshikovs mid-range tenor on "That Voice Again" and "Real Slow
Today." Completing the lineup was guitarist David Zingg. Taking the spotlight several
times, he provided the guitar heat for "The Time," "The Postcard," and
the title track of the album, which was released as Grebenshikovs first American
It was, however, the blond, blue-eyed Leningrad native who, with his poetry in musical
motion, demanded that all eyes be turned to him. Closing his eyes and wrapping his hands
around the microphone stand, he radiated emotion.
And while Grebenshikov most often appeared intense and pensive, he proved to have a dry
sense of humor. In introducing members of the band all of various races and nationalities,
he said all were from the Soviet Union except Titov. Titov, he said, was from Jamaica.