Brand New / Kevin Devine - live in Portland (Cover Artwork)

Brand New / Kevin Devine

live in Portland (2007)

live show

I don't go to the Roseland here in Portland much. A relatively large venue with security guards who dream about being riot cops just isn't that great of a combination for seeing a show. However, my friend had a +1 to this event and Brand New's newest album has grown on me since I originally reviewed it. So I went hearing rumors of set lists and stage presence and a couple encouraging bootleg videos on YouTube.

Manchester Orchestra opened up the night with about four songs from I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child. Now, for the entire show, there were two drum sets set up; during the first two sets there were three. So at some points during this opening set, there were nine musicians on stage (members of all the bands). While it was great the first time, it wore off after it was repeated on the next song and then a couple times during Kevin Devine's set.

As for the music itself, well, the frontman was trying really hard to get you to believe he cared about what he was singing, but he always seemed cautious. During the end of "I Can Barely Breathe," he hit the microphone away in defiance. However, instead of disregarding it as an object getting in the way of him screaming to the audience, he slapped it the way you'd expect a small child to hit their older sister who had just pushed them onto the playground grass. When the bassist went to throw his bass during the end of the last song, he tossed it about six inches in the air, as to make sure it didn't break or he didn't miss. It's this sort of regard for equipment that makes a set, or at least sincerity, seem a bit forced. Musically it was good, but again, with three guitarists as a standard, I'd sort of expect that.

Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band is an act I hadn't heard and while musically they weren't my thing, he puts on a good show. The crowd was the most energetic whenever Jesse Lacey took the stage to sing along, but his set was well-received and they pulled off a pretty good Neutral Milk Hotel cover in "Holland, 1945." Again, with the final song there were probably 10 or 12 people on stage, some just singing or playing tambourine or hitting a cymbal, and while it was obvious this was a tour of a bunch of friends just having fun, something about it seemed a bit forced.

I've only seen Brand New once before, it being when they shot the video for "Jude Law" at Skate and Surf Fest. Ironically enough, that's the last time I saw Dashboard Confessional as well, and this is what that felt like. While I remember them being a fun live act, a lot has changed. Jesse came out after an incredibly long set change break to play the aforementioned "Semester Abroad" acoustic. He was playing either in a minor key or trying to change it up, and maybe he was just drunk, but it was pretty awful. I was really looking forward to this, and as he sloppily transitioned into "Seventy Times 7," it just seemed like he didn't care.

And this was an ongoing thing. Generally the frontman's job is to be entertaining, but tonight was all about guitarist Vin Arcadia, who was pulling off metal solos during "The Shower Scene" and fiddling around with his guitar throughout the set to bring new life to old tunes, a smile on his face the entire time.

While the set list follows the review, I will say playing all of Deja Entendu was... unnecessary. The band received a lot of attention for it because it's so unlike Your Favorite Weapon, but when it comes down to it, some of the songs are just outright bad and certainly aren't good live. However, Brand New took advantage of the dual drum kits and performed a rousing rendition of "Tautou." Before playing "Play Crack the Sky," Jesse went on an odd five-minute plot synopsis of the movie Groundhog Day. I have no clue why.

The new songs were amazing. I wasn't expecting to hear as much as I did, and though Lacey's voice was coarse and broken from an already 100-minute set, he didn't let that stop him. The band actually started showing some interest in the music they were playing, as if the first 17 songs were just a warm-up. From the silent theater during the cry of "where you've been" at the climax of "Luca" to the echoing "whoa"s of "Millstone," Lacey was finally involved in some way.

Finally, I'd say the biggest detractor from the show was the crowd. As "Okay, I Believe You..." started, the crowd actually started singing without Lacey. He came in and told them to hold up, as they were all three lines in before he started singing. And I guess this is a good way to show why I don't really like seeing bands like this live; the kids all wanted to be the star or hope Jesse would look at them in the right light, never seeing the irony of yelling out, "I am not your friend, not your lover, not your family" during "Sowing Season." When all the girls screamed during "It's ladies night and all the girls drink for free!," I just thought Yeah, have fun at the bars in six years.

I'd say if you have a love for Deja Entendu and can put up with a really shitty crowd for a few hours, Brand New do put on quite a long show, while not super entertaining. But if you're going to see a band with some great stage presence or someone emotionally invested in more than just a handful of songs, I'd recommend finding another route.

Set list:

  1. Jude Law and a Semester Abroad [acoustic intro]
  2. Seventy Times 7
  3. The Shower Scene
  4. The No Seatbelt Song
  5. Soco Amaretto Lime
  6. Tautou [dual drummers]
  7. Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades
  8. I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light
  9. Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't
  10. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
  11. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot
  12. Jaws Theme Swimming
  13. Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis
  14. Guernica
  15. Good to Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have to Do Is Die
  16. Play Crack the Sky ["Groundhog Day" synopsis explanation intro]
  17. Welcome to Bangkok
  18. Sowing Season
  19. Millstone [dual drummers]
  20. Archers
  21. Jesus
  22. Luca
  23. Degausser
  24. You Won't Know [violin intro]