Two days before the Rolling Stones were set to roll into Gotham on their world tour, a group of the band’s contemporaries pulled into town on a decidedly lower-budget but undeniably higher-energy trek. During their initial mid-’60s run, the Creation won a fair number of fans in Britain and influenced a staggering number of their peers — not the least of which was Pete Townshend, who so admired guitarist-conceptualist Eddie Phillips that he asked him to sign on as a member of the Who. At this newly opened Brooklyn venue, the quartet — fleshed out by a powerful second-generation rhythm section that includes ex-members of the Buzzcocks and Sham 69 — gave a virtual seminar on, as their descendants might say, “keeping it real.”
In keeping with the band’s reputation as the architects of the British art-school movement, singer Kim Gardner, who took the mike after original vocalist Kenny Pickett died in the late ’90s, busied himself during instrumental passages by spray-painting bed sheets strung behind the band’s amps. The op-art visuals added to the psychedelic sensory overload, as did the fumes, which filled the intimate venue fairly quickly.
The band’s 80-minute set was evenly split between the frantic beat-pop that marked the onset of its career — an explosive run through “Biff Bang Pow” was the best of that bunch — and the more nonlinear sonic escapades that so enamored Phillips in the mid-’60s. He was the first guitarist to take a violin bow to the instrument’s strings — a trick that Jimmy Page borrowed for Led Zeppelin — and as evidenced by several sawing frenzies here, he’s still a master.
Wielding the bow with a matador-like flourish before the sweeping mind-expansion plaint “How Does It Feel to Feel,” Phillips coaxed searing feedback and enveloping layers of tone from his instrument. Similarly, “Making Time” — a simpler, more visceral tune that was prominently featured in “Rushmore” — built ruminatively to a crescendo of abstraction.
Intent on proving this wasn’t just a nostalgia show, the band previewed a pair of new songs, both of which updated its vintage approach with punky intensity. There was “Red With Purple Flashes” — the title taken from Phillips’ oft-quoted description of the Creation’s style of playing a grafted neo-bolero riff onto a tribal beat, and “Shock! Horror!,” which lurched along on a rollercoaster of reverb and rhythm.