Though the phrase “big in Europe” has become something of a joke among the music set, for someone like Mark Ronson, it’s no laughing matter. While he was born in London, Ronson’s family moved to New York at the age of 8, and it’s this big city he considers his hometown. After attending prestigious schools like Vassar and NYU, he became a big name in the club scene in the early ’90s, but hasn’t managed to break out much further in the US since, though he was certainly embraced in — well, Europe, particularly the UK. In 2003, he released a solo album, Can’t Stop The Fuzz, which wasn’t exactly a hit in the US, though it did spawn the successful single, “Ooh Wee,” which made it into the top 15 of both the UK and US charts.
Perhaps finally sensing that the US music industry is not always friendly to dance/dj/club-oriented music, Ronson put together a knock ’em dead compilation of covers for his second album, Version. Three singles from it had already charted in the UK before it was even released in the States, but unlike before, they might be a sign of things to come for the young man who was so excited to finally be playing a show in front of a hometown crowd.
Santo Gold tried her best to warm up a notoriously stiff New York City crowd (“It’s for dancing,” she said about her music) with her MIA styled beats and raps — though less frenetic. It was an intriguing performance, but it took until the second song of Ronson’s set for anyone to react.
Mark Ronson: “Toxic (Feat. Tiggers & ODB)” (download)
At Highline Ballroom, rapper Wale did an enthusiastic take over of the rap duties hoisted by ODB on this track (but he was wearing an ODB shirt in tribute, of course), while Tiggers handled his normal singing role. This track seems to get the most mixed reactions of all the songs on Version, but the fact that it’s just so weird is exactly what I find so appealing about it. More than just a cover in many ways, it shows part of the extent to which Ronson’s imagination can reach. The song is hard to recognize from its original — just slight hints are left behind, like seeing an old friend after more than 10 years have gone by. (Though in this case, it’s a mere 2-3). Not one to hog the spotlight, Ronson’s work took a backseat while Wale and eventually Saigon (of “Entourage” fame) performed what we were left to assume were original tracks. A slew of guest stars followed, including the return of Santo Gold to sing “Pretty Green” and Kenna for “Amy.” Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald came out for their well known cover of Radiohead’s “Just,” and a few embarrassing attempts at crowd surfing, after which Ronson asked him, “Can we play that really good song about LA?”
Tawaiah turned in a solid effort on the replacement of Amy Winehouse, who lent vocals for the cover of the Zutons’ “Valerie,” an album — and show — highlight. However, it was mere moments before she was one-upped by Daniel Merriweather, the Australian crooner who adds a haunting touch to what is, indisputably one of the best summer jams.
Mark Ronson: “Stop Me (Feat. Daniel Merriweather)” (download)
A heart-wrenching yet dance-able blend of the Smiths’ “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” (Unsurprisingly, it hit #2 on the UK charts back in April.)
His career may have yet to reach the apex that he desires, but it was quite clear that Ronson was content to be playing a packed-like-sardines-tight show in his hometown with a couple of friends.
Image courtesy flickr user visualgrammar