Stagnant Pools opened things up shortly after the promised start time of 9 p.m. They were a stripped down, sibling guitar-and-drums duo playing post-punk that was quite heavily indebted to Joy Division. Their stage demeanor-particularly vocalist/guitarist Bryan Enas-was dry to the point of near-hilarity. So much so, I nearly lost it when he muttered towards the end of the set, "We're really excited to be here." The contrast was mesmerizing. The music itself wasn't bad, though. Droney, but with some dynamic guitar parts here and there.
Truth be told, the Pedro the Lion/David Bazan names had floated about my consciousness for years, but I hadn't bothered to really invest any time into the man's material until September 2011, record-shopping in Philadelphia. That's when I picked up a used copy of It's Hard to Find a Friend, which began to pique my interest. But it wasn't until early this year that I discovered perhaps his most lauded effort, Control, which basically peaked my interest (opening with a sad plod that reminded me instantly of Death Cab for Cutie's "Title Track" didn't hurt). When Bazan announced a series of reissues and a tour in support where the man in question would play Control from front to back with the David Bazan Band, it was like generous forgiveness for a decade of negligence.
If there was a celebratory vibe concerning Control's 10th year anniversary, it was muted. Bazan and his accompanying rhythm section (bassist Andy Fitts, drummer Alex Westcoat and the occasional pre-recorded keyboard part) simply played through the songs without adornment or excess pomp, but the approach was refreshing, especially since he broke up sides "A" and "B" with some non-Control material in between. The Control material itself sounded crisp and focused, perhaps thanks to the three-piece's stripped-down setup, and the delivery helped retain the record's original melancholy vibe well.
Bazan also took questions from the audience, which yielded a number of semi-to-more interesting personal tidbits. We found out his favorite beer (Society & Solitude), why he chose Control to play of all the reissued albums ("It's the only record I like every song on"), why Control is so dark (he primarily discussed George W. Bush), his favorite memories (the last time he had sex with his wife; the birth of his children) and whether or not he believes in God (answered with a perhaps sarcasm-laced "No"). He's also working on a new record.
Per Brighton Music Hall customs, the crowd was warm and enthusiastic between songs, but relatively dead-bodied during the songs themselves. Granted, Bazan's not exactly playing circle pit shit-stirrers or anything, but the crowd's emotional reaction seemed oddly lax. We're talking heads hardly bobbing, though there was a little more animation during the middle part of the set.
A nice treat was the one other official Pedro member and Massachusetts native, TW Walsh, taking Westcoat's place on the drumkit for two Pedro songs. Apparently, Boston's the only city on this tour that will get such a cameo, too (given his current residence, one imagines). The crowd loved it, though Westcoat returned to kick off the last third of the set with the excellent "Magazine" (easily one of my all-time favorite Side B Track 1s).
Set list (10:04-11:24):
Control - Side A
- Indian Summer
- Gas and Matches [Headphones cover]
- Weeds in the Wheat
- Transcontinental [Pedro the Lion cover]
- How I Remember
- Eating Paper
Tim Walsh joins on drums:
- Foregone Conclusions [Pedro the Lion cover]
- When They Really Get to Know You, They Will Run [Pedro the Lion cover]
Westcoat returns for Control - Side B
- Second Best
- Priests and Paramedics