Pedro The Lion/John Vanderslice - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)

Pedro The Lion / John Vanderslice

live in Philadelphia (2004)

live show

The Pedro the Lion show was the first performance ever held in the Philadelphia Ethical Society building. The building was an old one, much like the other Constitutional era buildings in downtown Philadelphia. It was an interesting setting for a show, but also an uncomfortable one because it was an old stuffy building that became hot very quickly.

John Vanderslice opened for Pedro and put on an average performance. His songs were generic sounding rockers with the occasional echoing guitar or ambient keyboard swell. Vanderslice and company could have made up for the dull songs with a great performance, but instead they simply swayed like wallflowers at a high school dance. The most interesting part of the set was the constant turning on and turning off of lights in the room (a side effect of the promoters being unsure of how to operate the lighting since the venue was being used for the first time), which actually caused Vanderslice to pause a few times during his set in frustration.

Pedro the Lion may not have been much better when it came to a rocking live performance, but David Banzan's presence and haunting vocals made up for the lack of movement. He spent most of the set in a statuesque pose with his eyes shut, simply filling the room with his somber vocals and lo-fi rock. Pedro also played an interesting set that covered songs from each of their albums and even found time for a Radiohead cover.

Between songs Banzan would allow the audience to ask him questions, a practice that broke down the separation between band and audience that too often happens at shows and allowed for more of a communal experience. The questions also gave more insight into Banzan as a person. He spoke about the all too popular punk topic of the upcoming election stating that John Kerry was only slightly the lesser of two evils and that he would probably bring about the end of the United States in 100 years as opposed to Bush who would bring it about in 50 or 60 years. He also assured one audience member that his wife was not creeped out by his recurring theme of spousal murder and informed another that he does not take the Bible literally, but unraveling what it means makes it that much more worth while. He even threw in a joke about Red Hot Chili Peppers front man Anthony Kiedis saying, "Why did Anthony Kiedis cross the road? Because there was a lot of heroin on the other side," which he followed up by saying that although he doesn't like RHCP he means no harm to Anthony, hopes he is clean, and wishes him the best.

The show was nothing phenomenal, but still enjoyable. John Vanderslice and his backing band did nothing to distinguish themselves from any other indie rock performers. Luckily Pedro the Lion saved the show with great music, great vocals, and an attempt at making the experience more personal and intimate by conversing with the crowd.