Monday, October 22, 2007

The Donnas Spend the Night at Highline Ballroom

It had been a long time since The Donnas had played New York City, but the ladies from California made up for the absence with a high-energy show at the Highline Ballroom last week.

Their new album, "Bitchin,'" has a harder edge than their last few releases, reminiscent of Joan Jett in several songs, and this rougher sound comes off great in concert, where there are no overdubs or editing, but the unvarnished sound of the crunching guitar. Speaking of that guitar, this harder sound means that Allison Robertson, the band's lone guitarist, has to be on top of her game at all times, and she was up to the challenge.

Brett Anderson's voice was in fine form, as usual. And drummer Torrey Castellano, who has had problems in the past (and maybe still does) with wrist injuries from drumming, was wailing away on the skins with abandon, oftentimes practically jumping off of her stool. She's been a very enthusiastic and active drummer every time I've seen The Donnas, but she seemed to be even more revved up this time around. I wonder if her injuries have subsided, allowing her to whack on the drums harder, and enabling the band to pursue songs with a harder edge and a more driving beat.

As expected, the setlist included a number of songs from "Bitchin'" along with a collection of tunes from their last few albums. A couple of pleasant surprises were a song from one of their early albums, "Let's Go Mano," played during their encore, and a cover of the Ratt tune "Round and Round."

The only complaint I had about this show is the same one I have of every Donnas show I've attended: the band plays the shortest sets I've ever seen in a headlining band. I've seen The Donnas four or five times now and they've never played long than an hour, and sometimes the sets are closer to 50 minutes. I had sometimes suspected maybe this was due to Castellano's injured wrists--maybe they couldn't handle much more pounding than that on any given night--but she seems to be pounding the skins pretty hard these days.

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