Copeland have been around Boston a few times since reuniting in 2014. The most recent was a very crisp headlining performance at The Sinclair, and for this one at The Middle East they mixed it up a little bit, in multiple ways. Opener Rae Cassidy only played a few songs on her own (accompanied by a three-piece string section), with a wonderful voice that fit the darkened atmosphere of the room at that moment. It was low-key singer-songwriter fare that kinda reminded me of a more baroque, restrained Eisley in some ways.
The headliners, Copeland, came out seamlessly to join Cassidy and form a temporary megaband for opener â€œNot So Tough Found Outâ€ (the studio version of which she sings on). She left the stage after that and would come back for another song or two she sings on record.
From that first song, Copeland generally worked backwards through their discography, with songs spanning from their three most recent albums in the first set. They worked at at a fairly brisk pace, fitting in 24 songs over the span of two hours (including those two sets, an encore, and a quick 15-minute-ish intermission). Frontman Aaron Marsh spent most of the set at his piano, getting up for the songs with the more traditional, stripped-back band setup, often strapping on his guitar. The overall sound seemed a little more muffled than the show at The Sinclair, but thatâ€™s really on the acoustics of the venue more than it was the band, who seemed to play with a quiet precision and professionalism without losing the earnest touch of their songs.
The highlight for me was the section of songs off my favorite album of theirs, In Motion, from the driving â€œNo One Really Winsâ€ (which did seem to spark a noticeable amount of sudden energy and singing along from the crowd, though it wasnâ€™t as though they were snoozing the rest of the set) to Marsh playing â€œHold Nothing Backâ€ solo to close the second set. On the latter, he actually sort of snapped at the audience mid-song, perhaps a specific person; I think he may have just been annoyed theyâ€™d been talking over him, so I donâ€™t blame him at all. â€œDo you want me to bleed?â€ he asked rhetorically; I didnâ€™t quite get what he meant, but maybe he was asking if he should sing louder over them? He skipped a verse altogether just to get it over with, and apologized for the minor outburst of sorts when the band got back to the stage for the encore. Itâ€™s funny, because I remember a similar, somewhat heated exchange between him and two people in the audience at a Brooklyn show I saw them at a few years back. It didnâ€™t really deter from the performance at all, as the band still played a great encore of the stronger songs from their debut, Beneath Medicine Tree (especially â€œWhen Paula Sparksâ€), with a greater air of maturity theyâ€™ve developed since the release of that album 13 years ago.
First set list (8:53-9:32):
- Not So Tough Found Out
- Chin Up
- Should You Return
- Good Morning Fire Eater
- The Day I Lost My Voice (The Suitcase Song) [w/ Rae Cassidy]
- Have I Always Loved You?
- I Can Make You Feel Young Again
- Ordinary [Ixora Twin Edition version]
Second set list (9:48-10:26):
- Whereâ€™s My Head
- Control Freak
- Love Affair [w/ Rae Cassidy]
- Iâ€™m Safer in an Airplane
- When You Thought Youâ€™d Never Stand Out
- No One Really Wins
- Pin Your Wings
- You Have My Attention
- Hold Nothing Back [Aaron Marsh solo]
- Take Care
- When Paula Sparks