[OutVoice] R.U.B. live! reviewed by Jed Ryan of PM Entertainment Magazine

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Mon Dec 18 18:17:27 EST 2006

(forwarded from Jed Ryan, PM ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE)


      On Tuesday, Nov 14th, R.U.B. performed live at New York City's Penang 
Lounge for what the quartet promised to be four hours of "maximum 80s pop". Who 
are R.U.B? They are four experienced musicians, each of whom have gained a 
reputation in Gotham's independent music scene in their own right: Robert Urban 
on vocals and guitar, Gordon Smith of the electro-pop band Rubberlegs on 
vocals and synthesizer, Steve Sullivan on bass, and Anthony Maulella, also of 
Rubberlegs, on percussion.  Even though these four gents have worked with each 
other before in various collaborations, this was R.U.B.'s official debut 
performing as a band.  Indeed, the Upper West Side of Manhattan venue Penang works 
astonishingly well as a performance area, managing to be both grand and intimate 
at the same time. The band's set included such diverse musical offerings 
as Peter Gabriel's 1977 "Solsbury Hill" and the ultra-campy 1983 "Drop Your Pants" 
from one-hit, one-named wonder Hilary. (Incidentally, when Gordon commanded, 
"Drop Your Pants", no one in the audience obeyed.  Hey, this was the Upper West 
Side, not the Village!)  Penang Lounge is bolstered by a hard-hitting sound 
system, hard working staff, and even harder-working musicians for this 
particular night.  R.U.B. was matched by the reciprocal energy of the audience.  Robert 
Urban 's voice is haunting and otherworldly, and that voice can hit some 
splendid high notes (shall we say, his voice knows how to "rise" to the musical 
occasion...).  Gordon Smith's voice is patently distant and cool with an 
unquestionable underlying warmth and ingratiation.  Smith, who has been making music 
since 1978, often incorporates 80's classics into his shows-- solo and with 
Rubberlegs-- while the oft-Award-winning Robert Urban counts the rock classics 
of the '70's and early '80's as a big influence on his original works.  In 
Urban's words,  "The 80's are the new classics anyway!"  For those of us New 
Yorkers like myself who grew up with the renegade station WLIR, that's an 
understatement!  Some of R.U.B's unearthed musical gems that night at Penang included 
the obscure Our Daughter's Wedding's 1980  "Lawnchairs" (one of the few songs 
from the '80's that luckily hasn't yet been exploited for a commercial for 
Wal-Mart or an outdoor furniture store ad, despite an advertising agency's likely 
temptation...) and an all-out, no-holes barred rendition of "Money Changes 
Everything", written by Prince and performed by such icons as Cyndi Lauper, 
although it seems to have become a favorite song for reinterpretation by many 
independent musicians.  The cumulative result of R.U.B.'s talents and their 
selection of hit songs could best be described as an 80's music lover's rêve humide
(Although, to be completely accurate, there were a few songs from other 
decades as well!)  

     These guys didn't waste any time.  No sooner than you ordered your first 
Lychee Martini, R.U.B. opened with "Get It On (Bang-a-Gong"), a 1985 heavy 
hitter from The Power Station, (Interestingly, The Power Station were another 
four-man group made up of experienced musicians from different bands).  Gordon 
then took the lead vocals with the quirky classic "Cars" (Gary Numan's 1979 
sole hit, the one that goes, "Here in my car"... etc.).  Gordon continued his 
somewhat distant vocal style and adopted a rare deep tone for Modern English's 
1982 "Melt With You".  When he declares, "I made a pilgrimage to save this h
uman's race", we view the singer as something of an unorthodox messiah.  Redeption 
through 80's music?  Why not?!   Then came a sexy version of Depeche Mode's 
1994 "I Feel You", featuring a long, pounding instrumental musical interlude 
and a unique vocal styling by Urban; so many different meanings can be 
interpreted from the lyrics.  A lot of the artists that R.U.B spotlight in their show-- 
like Depeche Mode and other new wave bands-- relied heavily on elecronic 
trickery. (Anyone who's a fan of Rubberlegs, incidentally, will know that Gordon 
Smith has many electronic tricks under his size 31 belt, and Gordon brings 
these to the stage very well.)  So, here's the essence of R.U.B: Robert Urban's 
organic guitar work and ethereal voice, combined with Gordon's talents behind 
the keyboards and equally unique vox, bring these decade-spanning set to an 
entirely different level.  They can capture the fun spirit of early Depeche Mode 
with 1982's "Just Can't Get Enough", and equally do justice to the somber 
numbers of DM's later years, like "Stripped" from 1987 (The line  "Let me see you 
make decisions without your televison" is more relevant than ever in 2006.) .  
R.U.B. is bolstered by the synergy between the four bandmates.  Sullivan on 
bass offers some much-needed cool restraint, while Maulella shows one step from t
otal abandon with his famous percussion.  Speaking of energy, a real 
crowd-pleaser came with Devo's decadent 1980 hit "Whip It".  After that was a cover of 
the Eurythmics' 1984 "Here Comes the Rain Again", with Urban's haunting 
vocals never sounding more tormented, and Gordon's synthesizer re-creating the 
song's titular raindrops (For Eurythmics fans, the band did perform "Sweet Dreams" 
later on in the night as well!).   Then came one of The Cars' most famous 
party songs, "Let's Go (I Like the Nightlife)", from 1979, and a stripped-down, 
haunted version of the Psychedelic Furs (Remember them?) 1982  "Love My Way" 
featuring some exquisite synth work.  Urban then went solo with The Beatles' 
1969 "It's All Too Much", from the legendary "The Yellow Submarine" album, and 
then delivered an exceptionally poignant "Solsbury Hill".  Gordon took the vocal 
lead with New Zealand band Split Enz' 1980 it "I Got You"( "I don't know why 
sometimes I get frightened. You can see my eyes, you can tell that I'm not 
lyin'"), a song well-matched to his vocal abilities, and The Monroes' sole 1980 
hit "What Do all the People Know?"  ("Could you be the one I'm thinking of?  
Could you be the girl I really love?  All the people tell me so, But what do all 
the people know?")   The audience was also treated to an emblematic original 
Rubberlegs song, "The Timinator" the best song from the 80's that was recorded 
in 2005!  After a brief intermission, R.U.B. returned for more hits.  To 
again demonstrate the range of the music that night, two performances included 
Elton John's 1974 "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and one-hit wonder Soft 
Cell's 1981 "Tainted Love".   Another real musical curio came with Thomas Dolby's 
1983 "She Blinded Me with Science", the ultimate '80's video game geek-chic 
anthem, with Gordon providing lead vocals and Robert gleefully providing the 
intermittent declaration "Science!"  One of the most priceless moments of the 
night was Smith belting out the famous lyrics of The Violent Femmes' 1982 punk 
classic "Blister in the Sun": "When I'm a walking, I strut my stuff, then I'm so 
strung out; I'm high as a kite, I just might, stop to check you out... Let me 
go on, like a blister in the sun; Let me go on, big hands I know you're the 
one!".  Clearly, anyone coming into Penang Lounge that night who may have 
harbored some of New York City's contagious restlessness (sexual or otherwise), 
like the hero of the song, definitely left feeling more "high as a kite" than 
"strung out" after this show.  R.U.B.'s energy is indeed contagious!   

     So many hits, so little time-- even with four hours!  R.U.B. performs 
again at Penang Lounge on Tuesday, December 19th and Tuesday, January 30, 2007.  
Penang is located at 240 Columbus Ave. at 71st St., Call (212) 769-3988 or 
check out www.PenangUSA.com for their menu and more info.

Also check out:

Jed Ryan
PM Entertainment Magazine

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