Monday, April 9th, 2007
Mapped By What Surrounded Them
While it’s certainly unfortunate that visa issues forced Aereogramme to bow out of the first leg of their tour with The Twilight Sad and A Northern Chorus, it has to be said that based on Friday night’s show at the El Mocambo, the dynamic with just the two tourmates worked really well – I don’t know that I would have wanted another act to follow the de facto headliners in The Twilight Sad.
There were still three bands on the bill, as The Rest from Hamilton/Burlington (or somewhere thereabouts) were brought in at the last minute as pinch hit openers. They were an interesting outfit, seven members strong and each traveling with an arsenal of gear making the stage look like a musical instrument rummage sale (of really nice gear, mind you). And they used every piece of it in executing their rather expansive prog-pop pieces. The musicianship and song orchestrations were impressive – arranging four guitars such that no one is redundant is no mean feat – but Adam Bentley’s Alec Ounsworth-aping vocals planted them into the “not my thing” department. If he gets that under control I’d be interested to hear what else they can do.
A Northern Chorus’ latest album The Millions Too Many was a bit of a revelation in how good the band could sound with drier production and without the aural soft focus lens that had defined their sound till now. The same can also be said for their live show – there was a lean, upfront quality to the performance that I really enjoyed. Hearing them with both string players was also a treat (last time, two years ago, they were cello-less) – ANC are typically classed as dream-pop or shoegaze or what have you, but there’s an orchestral and even folk/country-ish angle to their sound that sounds new to me but I suspect has always been there. It’s always nice to have a band you thought you had pegged turn around and surprise you, and in the positive sense.
I couldn’t help comparing the stage setup for The Twilight Sad and that for The Rest – whereas the latter’s gear was practically falling off the stage, the headliners’ setup was as austere as a four-piece could get. One guitar, one bass, one amp for each, a few pedals, drum kit and a microphone for the singer. But even so, they were able to make one enormous sound – coming after A Northern Chorus’ glistening set, The Twilight Sad were like storm clouds gathering and then unleashing a steady, sustained thunderclap. Some bands excel at creating musical tension, The Twilight Sad are all about that moment where musical tension becomes release. You might think that could get repetitive over the course of a set, but just as their record Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters somehow remains engaging start to finish, so did their live show. Frontman James Graham has a curious but compelling onstage charisma as he communes with his microphone, seemingly oblivious to the audience and as I said before, his Scottish accent is simply marvelous and perfectly suited for their melancholic anthems. Everything sounds 50% more despairing in a Scottish brogue. The only misstep of the night was with the set closer of “I’m Taking The Train Home” – they were sadly out of synch and I’m convinced that the volume levels finally took their toll and the band were no longer capable of hearing each other. But on the plus side, they probably didn’t even know it and that made for a fittingly ragged finale to a wholly impressive show. If I were Aereogramme, I’d be very wary of having to follow this band.
Photos: The Twilight Sad, A Northern Chorus, The Rest @ The El Mocambo – April 6, 2007
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Cold Days from the Birdhouse”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “And She Would Darken The Memory”
MP3: A Northern Chorus – “The Millions Too Many”
MP3: The Rest – “Memories Like Photographs (An Icelandiguese Fable)”
MP3: The Rest – “Innocent Fools”
MySpace: A Northern Chorus
MySpace: The Rest
It’s probably the furthest thing from sensible to plan on seeing Loney, Dear at Lee’s Palace on June 3 the day after I get back from two weeks in Europe, but you know what? I’m planning on it anyways. Hook me up to a caffeine IV, I’m good to go. Check out all tour dates here and take my word for it – they’re marvelous live.
Sad news – The Drive-By Truckers have confirmed that Jason Isbell has officially left the band to pursue his solo career. Isbell followed up a terse post on his MySpace blog with a more diplomatic one, saying that the post from Patterson Hood on the DBT MySpace blog says everything that needs to be said, though it certainly sounds more like a push than a jump from Isbell’s POV. Disappointing for sure, especially since his songs have been my favourites on the last couple Truckers records. But in hindsight, it’s amazing that three such strong songwriting talents were able to co-exist for as long as they did. Interesting to see how the next Truckers record, being recorded this Summer with original guitarist John Neff back in the fold, sounds without Isbell’s contributions. For his part, he’s living the solo artist life on the road with Son Volt and stopping at the Mod Club on Thursday. I wonder how he’ll manage to do press to promote the tour and his solo record Sirens Of The Ditch, out July 10, while maintaining his pledge to “not answer questions about” the split?