Balance and Composure/The Jealous Sound - live in Cambridge (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Balance and Composure / The Jealous Sound

live in Cambridge (2013)

live show

It's a given that Balance and Composure have experienced a steady rise in popularity since first gaining notice and signing to No Sleep a few years back, but it was nonetheless a little surprising that they managed to sell out Cambridge, MA's The Sinclair (a supposedly 525-cap venue that makes for a much more enjoyable club experience than most Boston haunts) with two bands who are overall immensely enjoyable and exceptionally respectable, but didn't exactly seem to be adding many heads to the room. Factor in the night of the week (Friday), the bitter cold (leaving little else to want to do), and maybe it makes more sense. One inventory-taking glance of the crowd, however, also showed just how young the median age was. We're talking maybe 20. I would have expected some folk older than me present for the Jealous Sound, but not even.

Daylight were first, and qualified my guess of the average age by actually receiving a better response than the Jealous Sound, with a small gathering near vocalist/guitarist Taylor Madison hollering and finger-pointing along to certain songs and inciting some push-mosh during closer "Damp." As Daylight's sound has continued to shift from gruff, melodic post-hardcore with self-hating lyrics to '90s alternative/grunge that gets a little more obtuse, they're looking the part well. These dudes have always loved the flannel, but the long hair and plaid combo is elevating them to a perhaps desired visual parallel with Dino Jr./Nirvana. This particular set list was a nice display of that musical evolution, ranging from the energetic and miserable tone of Dispirit songs to the freshly posted "In on It". While fellow vocalist/guitarist Jake Clarke seemed to have his mic turned down too much at times, it was a solid set. With the band finally going the full-length route with their Jar LP due out in a few months after a series of promising and musically evolving EPs, it's easy to see them following the trajectory of tonight's headliners and comparably "blowing up," depending on how it's received.

Set list (7:59-8:25):

  1. On the Way to Dad's
  2. Youth No More
  3. Hungry at a Funeral
  4. In on It
  5. Selfish
  6. Two of a Kind
  7. Damp

The Jealous Sound sounded pristine and professional, acting as a great anomaly between the two younger acts sandwiching them. It was interesting to hear an older band on this lineup with a far more polished and bright sound, but it was a highly enjoyable diversion nonetheless. I think they may have been off time for all of two moments, and otherwise locked it down, playing a super tight, 44-minute set that felt far shorter while looking like they were having a great time doing it (vocalist/guitarist Blair Shehan smiling brightly during "Perfect Timing") despite the lack of reception (and this was the third-to-last day of the tour, so if it's been like this for weeks, I don't even understand how they maintain that sort of spirit). The audience was polite and paid attention, though it was clear that next-to-no one was actually familiar with them. If they didn't appreciate the set, hopefully they at least enjoyed the drummer's amusing facial expressions, which made me think of Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber.

Set list (8:50-9:33):
  1. Hope for Us
  2. Change You
  3. Promise of the West
  4. Perfect Timing
  5. A Gentle Reminder
  6. The Fold Out
  7. This Is Where It Starts
  8. Abandon! Abandon!
  9. Anxious Arms

But the audience would absolutely explode once Balance and Composure hit the stage. Endless stage dives, huge sing-alongs and swimming across heads while the tour manager acted as a human barricade and guitar pedal/monitor protection against the parade of one body after the other (and even singing a bit part for closer "I Tore You Apart in My Head," which received the biggest reaction of the set; a hooded Madison appeared before that for "Patience") while a cartoony kaleidoscope of aquamarine colors was projected on the back wall. At the forefront of the set, vocalist/guitarist Jon Simmons excused the band for all enduring some sort of illness, and while it did show at times, from strained singing to the occasional sloppy part (the break between "More to Me" and "Patience" seemed like a death knell), there were times I felt like the band were more on point (in terms of playing proficiently and engaging the crowd with presence and energy) than at any time I've ever seen them over the last five years. It would have been interesting to see how they are in their current state at full health. It seems like they may have cut a song or two as well, with nostalgic favorite "Alone for Now" and the fantastic "Rope" getting some play on this tour but none tonight. Still, they featured a nice range of songs from their small catalog for this headlining set, knocking out three-quarters of 2011's Separation, dropping in a few from the beloved Tigers Jaw split and excellent Only Boundaries EP, as well as one new cut, "You Can't Fix Me." From their new split EP with Braid (a band who likely formed around the same time most of this audience was born), it's an excellently nuanced, surprisingly restrained and more mature four minutes that nonetheless does not hold back on the closing, anthemic hook, and predictably sounded great live.

Set list (9:49-10:44):
  1. Quake
  2. Kaleidoscope
  3. Void
  4. Stonehands
  5. Show Your Face
  6. You Can't Fix Me
  7. Echo
  8. Burden
  9. I Can't Do This Alone
  10. More to Me
  11. Patience
  12. I Tore You Apart in My Head