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Strung Out / The Darlings: live in Cambridgelive in Cambridge (2012)
Reviewer Rating: 3.5
Contributed by: InaGreendaseInaGreendase
(others by this writer | submit your own)
While I'd have been excited to see Such Gold and their new found sense of fast, technical melodic hardcore/punk precede Strung Out like they've done on many of these tour dates, it was not in the cards for Cambridge. Support instead came from the Darlings, Handguns and Tenebrae—a little less exciting than the band's tours of yore. Like many of the older folk attending this show, I arrived fashionably late, meeting up with a friend at the venue right around the time the Darlings took the stage. It would be generous to say the downstairs of the Middle East was even half full at this point. I wasn't really sure who this band was (and I wager the feeling was shared around the floor), but apparently they've toured with all the punk veterans of their state: Bad Religion; Pennywise; Guttermouth. They played somewhat dated melodic punk with a pretty straightforward rock slant, which nonetheless seemed to get the push-pitters warmed up a bit with some head-bobbing and dancing in place. (My friend pointed to the singer at one point, offering this observation: "You know why Social Distortion plays 12 shows a year in Orange County? THAT guy.") They kicked out a seemingly impromptu cover of Guns N' Roses's "It's So Easy," which looked and sounded competent enough; while the set was far from repulsive or anything, that was probably one of the more memorable moments.
That was a cool 42 minutes, but the real treat for me was Twisted by Design, far and away the crown jewel, IMO, of Strung Out's fairly sizable catalog. (Those choruses! Those melodies! Those riffs! The variety!) The band took a very short break, playing some silly carnival/circus-themed music over the PA. I don't think anyone knew how long this intermission would actually last, because much of the crowd seemed to duck out, perhaps for a smoke break. There probably wasn't even enough time for a full cigarette, as they returned less than four minutes later playing that glorious opening riff of "Too Close to See." While I wasn't too into the occasional half-time application (done both on the last chorus of "Too Close to See" and near the end of closer "Matchbook"), at least the band was trying to mix it up a little bit. They even swapped "Crossroads" and "Asking for the World" in sort of a "Why not?" approach. I was pleased to hear Jordan Burns nail those sick drum fills during "Paperwalls," and the band exaggerate the stop-starts of "Ice Burn" to a neat degree (in retrospect, Thrice borrowed pretty heavily from this song's tone for "Kill Me Quickly," huh?). I think Jason Cruz was getting a bit weary by "Ultimate Devotion," as he spent pretty much the entire song crouching near the front of the stage basically embracing the front of the crowd. He found enough energy to get up and lead the band fiercely enough through the last third of the album, though, with "Matchbook" naturally getting the biggest reaction of the night (and Cruz having to prevent one crowd surfer, an apparent friend of the band as he would make multiple random appearances throughout the set to sing backups, from coming to fisticuffs with someone in the audience).
Deserved shoutouts to both deceased bassist Jim Cherry (most certainly a key figure for the band during these albums' years) and long-time friend of the band, Tony Sly, came during this set. While you sort of had to say something regarding the much more recent news that devastated the punk world, the band really just led a brief chant of his name after "Ultimate Devotion;" better than nothing, one might say.
Twisted by Design set list (11:46-12:29):
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