The Twilight Sad / Port St. Willow - live in Allston (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Twilight Sad / Port St. Willow

live in Allston (2015)

live show

Enigmatic, Scottish post-punk/indie rock underdogs the Twilight Sad headed over to the U.S. for their first headlining tour here in support of last year's excellent Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, and fortunately for me, the first date was in Boston. Even more fortunate was that it was at Great Scott in Allston, essentially around the corner from my residence, just like last time. It's rare that I follow a band for so long who then go and deliver my favorite effort of theirs four LPs and seven years in, so this was a particularly exciting show to be at.

I'll hand it to the band for bringing out openers who aren't necessarily just another strain of what the Twilight Sad do. Last time it was electronic post-rockers Errors; this time it was ambient indie outfit Port St. Willow. Young-ish looking singer Nick Principe had a pretty beautiful, sort of androgynous and tenor-leaning neo-soul type voice; a Bon Iver comparison feels lazy and shortsighted, but it gives you an idea. The music was warm and jammy, with some samples and trombone and Principe's striking voice rising above it all; I was surprised it didn't kill the bar chatter emanating from the back of the room more. I overheard a Talk Talk comparison, which made a lot of sense given the songs' drifting directions. Not a bad, pleasant placesetter while offering something pretty different from the headliner.

The Twilight Sad then came on to ply their cold wares, matching the temperature outside. They played most of Nobody, naturally, with the recently released single "I Could Give You All That You Don't Want" an anguished highlight; with frontman James Graham's eyes often clenched and his arms often raising up towards the heavens, his jittery, stomping stage presence and gesticulations during the set really meeting the mood of the song at that moment. Deeper cut "In Nowheres" was given an extra pulsing beat like that of 2011's darkwave-leaning No One Can Ever Know. Slightly toying with the tones and structure of songs, they also added a cool echo effect to the last few vocal lines of "Alphabet". Overall they sounded great and played quite well, and while Graham is really the only band member who moves around much, the steadier presences of the others kept the music tight and in check.

Epic non-album single "The Wrong Car" was probably the song that got me into the band when they released it in 2010, so hearing that in all its miserably soaring glory towards the end of the set was a great treat. It would have been cool to hear a little more from 2009's Forget the Night Ahead (there were three from fan favorite Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters), but maybe we'll be fortunate enough to get a "Made to Disappear" or "Reflection of the Television" the next time around. As is, this set was still another stunning reminder of the band's handiwork at building cascading emotion and enveloping atmospheres on record and being able to recreate much of that same feeling live without a hitch.

Set list (11:05-12:17):

There's a Girl in the Corner
Last January
That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy
Drown So I Can Watch
I Became a Prostitute
It Never Was the Same
In Nowheres
I Could Give You All That You Don't Want
Cold Days from the Birdhouse
The Wrong Car
And She Would Darken the Memory

some photos from the show I stumbled across