Murder by Death

Murder by Death: live in Chicagolive in Chicago (2009)
Vagrant Records

Reviewer Rating: 5

Contributed by: american_666_jesusamerican_666_jesus
(others by this writer | submit your own)

When I heard that Murder by Death was doing a tour where they would be playing the full albums Red of Tooth and Claw and Who Will Survive..., I knew I had to be there. These are easily my two favorite records of theirs. Combined with the fact that the original keyboardist was going to be along for t.

When I heard that Murder by Death was doing a tour where they would be playing the full albums Red of Tooth and Claw and Who Will Survive..., I knew I had to be there. These are easily my two favorite records of theirs. Combined with the fact that the original keyboardist was going to be along for the ride, it was official. My excitement only grew when I heard that Fake Problems were going to be opening. The last time I saw them was two years ago, opening for Against Me!.

I was a little late getting to the show tonight. I could have sworn doors were at 6:30, but it turns out Fake Problems were going on then. I got there about 10 minutes into their set and hurried to catch as much as I could. Most of what I heard was new material and oh how magnificent it sounded. I don't know what they opened with, but I imagine it was "1,2,3,4." I was disappointed because I really wanted to see that and sing along. To hell with the fact that I downloaded the album; I pre-ordered that shit months ago and it just shipped yesterday. It truly is an amazing album and far supersedes anything Fake Problems has done before and stands as a strong contender for best album of 2009 already. It was refreshing to see the intensity and energy that this band has on stage. It was this same passion that had me hooked on them some years ago. I could hear a few people in the audience singing along with their songs which was nice. They only had a half-hour to play and the set ended rather abruptly as nobody realized they were out of time as they started up their last song. I was happy to visit their merch table afterward and pick up The Dream Team EP and their split EP with Look Mexico.

Second up tonight were the Builders and the Butchers. I had never heard this band before, so I retreated to the coat check area to talk with my friend who had also never heard of them. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this band. They had quite an ensemble of musical instruments. There were banjos, mandolins, squeeze boxes and the staple guitar, bass, and drum, all of which was acoustic. I could best describe their sound as upbeat folk and country all intertwined and given a certain edge. Their percussion section was two drummers working at separate pieces for the most part, each of whom wore a tambourine on their feet. Their infectious melodies carried throughout the club and one could not help but dance. The highlight of their set had to have been when they started handing out instruments to the crowd. They were tossing tambourines and maracas, but the best part was when they passed a bass drum to the crowd. It was such an awesome experience to watch such a high level of audience participation. My friend and I were in agreement that we did not want this band to end because they were just that good.

Having just seen Murder by Death back in November with William Elliott Whitmore, I was unsure how they were going to be able to top that show. However, this band continues to surprise me. Their theatrics tonight were just unbelievable. Accompanying their set was a collection of classic film clips containing some of the most absurd and wonderful things imaginable. It was hard to pay attention to their set, take pictures and see what was going on on screen, but it was done. The clips seemed to fit so seamlessly with their macabre songs and it set the perfect atmosphere. The only downside came when the film ran out before the songs did. That was due in part to Adam's elaborate explanation of their shenanigans of the previous evening involving what they called a "Bed Taco." The story was incredibly humorous and involved them wrapping their bassist in his mattress several times in a row at 3 in the morning.

Performance-wise, MBD were spot on. Adam's voice resonates so powerfully live and manages to strike somewhere deep inside me when I hear it. It was funny to hear him reference playing like Whitesnake by putting his foot on a box and just playing the shit out of his guitar. By the way, his black flame guitar is one of the most amazing instruments I've ever seen. The cellist, Sara is such a beautiful woman. Watching her play tonight was something else. I was right in front of her for the duration of Red of Tooth and Claw. You could feel her passion and love for her music come through not just in the notes, but in her face and body movements. She seems to travel outside of her body and take on the essence of the songs. It was almost sensual to watch her hands moving up and down the neck combined with her facial expressions and the way she threw her body to the rhythm. Vince's keyboard playing is always a welcome addition to any MBD performance and he was a huge part of the success of tonight's show. They way he seems to know the songs and add his own style to them is something I believe that only he could do.

After playing through the two albums of the evening, the band came on and did a few encores. They played "Brother," which I was very happy to hear. That is one of my favorite tracks off In Bocca al Lupo. They also performed a very old song that I did not recognize because I am not too familiar with their older material. They closed with a few instrumental pieces off of Like the Exorcist....

This was one of the most amazing shows I have seen in a while and not even the obnoxious drunks that littered the club that night could spoil it. If you get the opportunity to catch this tour, do yourself a favor and be there.

Fake Problems
Murder by Death


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The Clash - London CallingOperation Ivy - Operation IvyRise Against - Revolutions Per MinuteAlkaline Trio - GoddamnitStreet Dogs - Fading American DreamFake Problems - It's Great to Be AliveThe Falcon - UnicornographyRefused - The Shape of Punk to ComeNOFX - The DeclineThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
gotsmuch (February 21, 2009)

i'm talking about how not only trivial but disrespectful it is to bring that kind of shit into a review of a show. and i'm not bragging that they're my buddies or anything but i grew up in bloomington, a small town with a small scene, so naturally i happen to know these people. PEOPLE. not figures or characters. calling a woman "HAWT" is kind of degrading, not empowering or progressive. it's like saying "i'd fuck 'er!" and i can't take this review seriously if that's how it's gonna be, the same way i wouldn't take a female's review seriously if it said "also adam is teh sex".

you fucking presumptuous cocksucking moron.

punk_sk (February 20, 2009)

score is for how much fun had that night.

nocigar (February 19, 2009)

wow gotsmuch..you sure do know how to bitch. Quit reading reviews of MBD if you don't like seeing people say she's hot, because it's going to happen. SHES HOT.

Oh, and nobody cares that you know the whole band..quit boasting for respect.

Score is for MBD

gotsmuch (February 18, 2009)

yeah, the band's on-stage stripper, sarah, is a real piece of ass.

oh, wait. she's the CELLIST. explain to me how it's not fucked up that you spent a paragraph discussing your sex fantasies without mentioning, i dunno, her musicianship or skill, or something trivial like that. not that it counts for much, but i happen to know everyone in this band and it kinda sucks that i can't look at a review of them without reading, "saraz fucken hot tho."

indieinfo (February 18, 2009)

I also saw this in New York. The encore was "Brother", "Flamenco's Fuckin' Easy", and "I'm Afraid of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe". Pretty sweet show.

IamtheAvatar (February 18, 2009)

This tour came through Tucson last night. The Builders and The Butchers were great. Murder by Death blew me away.

Watching the hot cello player in MBD was probably the best part. Score is for her.

names (February 18, 2009)


I agree with pretty much everything you said. Their best two records are the first two. Unfortunately, the new one has all of two good songs. I love Adam and the rest of the band. I think they're sincere in their intentions. But the songs now just lack creativity and any amount of complexity. What makes Those Who Survive so good is that it combines both the early and later elements of the band. The only reason I went to this show was because it was at the Beat Kitchen and I was hoping to see some stuff from Like The Exorcist (see previous comment), plus I absolutely enjoy Those Who Survive. It was a really good show (the old songs resonated just like I remembered them five years ago). But still....

names (February 18, 2009)

goddamnit! They played Brother, Virginia Wolff and You Are The Last Dragon (the last two from Like The Exorcist) at the Beat Kitchen. I thoroughly enjoyed them. But I really wanted to see Those Who Stayed and Those Who Left. Fantastic songs. And naturally they played them at the next show. Damn me. Maybe the next time they come to Chicago I can just beg Adam to promise me they play them so I don't have to keep trying my luck.

preston (February 18, 2009)

Saw this in NYC. Really glad I did. I also think Like the Exorcist is their best album, but I like everything they do live.

Fake Problems also kicked it.

bigbuzzaldrin (February 18, 2009)

dudes i'm sorry. this band is booooring.

i tried, i really did.

drericmiller (February 18, 2009)

I saw this tour in Cambridge and was also completely blown away. And seeing the cellist play was incredible. Your description was spot on. And yes she is hot. Definitely in the top 5 best concerts I've ever been to.

colin (February 18, 2009)

i skipped this show, possibly for the worst. i really do love "who will survive ...", but to me the band has never (and would have trouble) topped "like the exorcist." they're a totally different band now than they were as little joe gould so i wouldn't hold them to doing this "old shit for the old fans" thing, but their saloon-rock isn't nearly as enchanting as the more indie/post rock ambiance of their old stuff.

plus, i remember seeing these guys live opening for thursday years ago and they fucking blew my mind, and since then they have always put on decent shows but nothing that you leave with any sense that you had learned something about music you didn't know already going in.

also let's take bets on how many comments will include "the cellist is super hot."

(the cellist is super hot.)

RRK (February 18, 2009)

Score is for MBD's bassist having a Heineken bottle opener on his bass.

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