mewithoutYou / Kevin Devine - live in Boston (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

mewithoutYou / Kevin Devine

live in Boston (2012)

live show

I had just seen mewithoutYou on kind of a B-market tour recently in support of their great new album, Ten Stories, down in consistently overcast Pawtucket, R.I., a month or two prior. But being one of my favorite bands, supported by one of my favorite singer-songwriters (Kevin Devine), and playing just 45 minutes away, it was a show they certainly made worth attending.

The only minor redundancy for fans like myself that had trekked to both of these dates was opener Buried Beds. By no means an awful group of musicians (or people, imaginably, judging from their friendly banter), but not entirely my thing, per se. The Philadelphians play what I could only vaguely describe as lightly orchestral, melody-basted indie-folk with soaring co-ed vocals. Still, as it was in Pawtucket, it was very white noise to me despite each player's clear proficiency. Granted, when mwY's rhythm section and Devine came out to add their talents to the closing song, in turn offering a booming triple percussion, it was pretty cool.

I've always thought that while Devine's albums have been pretty good at best, he'd have an incredible "Best of" collection. Essentially, I'm saying that over the last decade and change (counting Miracle of 86) he's written a shitload of really great songs, so whenever he plays live, it's definitely worth catching. The last time he came through Boston it was with a revamped band supporting Say Anything just a few months ago; that stripped-down ensemble employed a much noisier and meaner tone to Devine's songs than the Goddamn Band's previous incarnation, and it was definitely a cool change-up. But here it was just him solo with an electric guitar, an atmosphere I haven't seen him in for a couple of years. He pretty much nailed it, playing some of the best songs from his recent albums with a rehearsed professionalism but with that signature earnest candor, one-and-a-half covers (the one, a Sam Cooke duet with Buried Beds' Eliza Jones), cracking somehow mildly amusing Limp Bizkit jokes, dealing with obnoxious conversation-carry-onners (his voice during "Off-Screen" boomed well over careless murmuring) and handling a particular heckler with total diplomacy. The best part came when he walked to the back of the stage with his guitar and howled the harrowing bridge of closer "Brother's Blood" probably 10 feet from the mic; there was a perfect tinge of reverb as you could still hear him clearly, crying this part out.

Set list (8:47-9:34):

Between the Concrete & Clouds
Brooklyn Boy
Another Bag of Bones
Cupid [Sam Cooke cover]
Longer That I'm Out Here
You Wouldn't Have to Ask [Bad Books "cover"]
Yr Damned Ol' Dad
Cotton Crush
Brother's Blood

This lineup mewithoutYou had differed slightly from the one at Pawtucket, with an added guitarist. It gave the set a slightly fuller sound, but they probably could have pulled off this set just as well without him. They plowed through a great opening four songs, with an especially awesome transition from "C-Minor" to the howled intro of "Four Word Letter (Pt. Two)". It looks like they've been changing up the setlists pretty decently from show to show on this tour, with special moments here including elder, rarely played cuts like "Silencer" and "Paper Hanger."

There were few real pauses throughout the set, but they still seemed loose and somewhat improvised from moment to moment, with a little bit of self-deprecation in there ("Apologies to Leonard Cohen," frontman Aaron Weiss offered after a humble, murmured cover to start the encore). They devised an alternate outro for "Messes of Men," played two of the "Spider" songs closely together, and added especially brash deliveries to the other folky moments. Actually, interestingly enough, it seemed like the it's all crazy! it's all false! material got some of the biggest reactions, though these songs also wielded some of the biggest hooks of the night. Granted, there was noticeably warm, excited applause when they rolled out the opening licks of "Silencer."

All throughout, the band exuded a sort of newer brand of confidence than I've seen from them, but they remained energetic and entertaining throughout the hour-plus set.

Set list (9:49-10:54):

February, 1878
Four Word Letter (Pt. Two)
East Enders Wives
Cardiff Giant
The Angel of Death Came to David's Room
A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains
Nine Stories
Yellow Spider
Paper Hanger
Orange Spider
Fox's Dream of the Log Flume
Son of a Widow
Messes of Men
Bear's Vision of St. Agnes
All Circles
Encore (10:55-11:05):
Sisters of Mercy [Leonard Cohen cover]
Allah, Allah, Allah

A little after the show, Aaron Weiss treated a small gathering on the sidewalk outside the venue to a short acoustic set for the Sleepover Shows series, playing a Bob Dylan cover, "The King Beetle on the Coconut Estate" and "Goodbye, I!". I imagine their full video will surface soon, but here's one of those songs: