Depending on your perspective, the Lawrence Arms are either way behind on issuing An Evening of Extraordinary Circumstance, a concert DVD celebrating the band’s 10th anniversary show in Chicago three years ago, or totally ahead of schedule with celebrating their 15th anniversary. Either way, it’s finally here, in all its drunkenly uneven glory.
Concert DVDs are only a notch about live albums in the hierarchy of essential releases. Instead of just hearing people who aren’t you have a good time, you get to see them too. Still, based on the crowd’s response, it looks like the Larry Arms put on a good show that night (32 songs!). The band brings all the hits, tells a few funny stories and doesn’t embarrass the Larry legacy. For a guy such as myself, who has never seen the band live, An Evening of Extraordinary Circumstance delivers nearly two hours of much needed punk rock.
But man are they an uneven two hours. I’ve heard tales of the band’s sloppiness live, and for the first 20 minutes or so, the Larry Arms live up to that reputation. Flubbed notes and botched harmonies abound at first. On the technical side, the camera crew’s audio equipment failed while recording “Necrotism: Decanting the Insalubrious [Cyborg Midnight] Part 7.” The mixing is odd too. Opener “Cut It Up” sounds really cavernous, while the last five songs or so sound a little too touched up.
If we’re talking averages, though, Evening captures a stellar set. Lest we forget, there are still 100 minutes or so of finely crafted Chicago punk that owns faces here. Neil “Tennessee” Hennessy never lets up, opening the set and the encore with the same driving power. Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan take turns spinning drunken tales, drawing from all over the band’s discography, and even Hennessy gets some mic time on “106 South.” It’s to their credit that they can play 30+ songs and still have more songs I want to hear. Quality issues aside, it’s a good concert.
The special features are a little more mixed. Including the band’s music videos (plus Sundowner’s “In the Flicker”) is neat, but the commentary is a chore. This is the one time I really do want to hear Kelly drunkenly ramble on, but he doesn’t have a whole lot to add to the proceedings beyond what he already said that day.
Like the show itself, which attracted concertgoers from across the globe, Evening is decidedly a fans-only release. You have to be a super fan to look beyond the iffy opening and technical glitches. Also, it’s two hours of Larry Arms. Still, if you’re down with the records, you’ll be down with the live set. It’s been a while since Buttsweat and Tears, but Evening reminds me why I love this band. Now write another full-length, please.