I caught a couple of June's songs, not expecting much, and wasn't given much. It still boggles me how much their vocalist sounds like Patrick Stump, and how he isn't even close to being alone in that company.
To admit a bias up front, I wasn't particularly fond of Emanuel's "first" full-length, Soundtrack to a Headrush, describing it as "a cross between a poor man's Bronx and a rich man's Senses Fail." Watching their mediocre performance at a Saves the Day show some time after the album's release didn't help, either. I still stand by that sentiment regarding that album. Here they had another chance, opening up for a personal favorite of mine, but completely, utterly botched it.
Who knows when Emanuel decided they wanted to be a second-rate Glassjaw, but that turning point needs to be discovered and changed drastically. The first song they played, "Scenotaph," came from their forthcoming LP2, Black Earth Tiger, and just about completely ripped that influence off. The band even employed that same vibe to their older material, particularly "The New Violence" and "Make Tonight," the latter's verses of which sounded like a poorly disguised "Ape Dos Mil."
In addition, the band simply performed under par. The energy from the band in general was decent, but vocalist Matt Breen missed every note imaginable during "The Willing," and didn't fare entirely better during the other songs. On top of that, his fangless pterodactyl scream was just obnoxious. Breen ending the set moaning into the mic like he was experiencing an 'o' certainly did not help things.
Thank goodness Emanuel is trying something new -- it's just too bad it doesn't necessarily work, nor do they have a great live show to really overcome it. Few bands are capable of properly parlaying that Glassjaw influence, and unfortunately Emanuel just isn't one of them.
Set list (9:38-10:06):
- The Willing -----
- The New Violence
- Cottonmouth -----
- Make Tonight
- Breathe Underwater
- The Hey Man!
Six years into the game, the band have come fully into their own.
Lovat-Fraser claimed to have lost his voice just an hour prior to the band's set, yet sounded absolutely spot-on, and only refrained from singing his lines a scant number of times, letting guitarist/backup vocalist Jeff Davis take over said line when needed. It's easy to think Lovat-Fraser was auto-tuned the relative shit out of on the band's recently released, self-titled album, but I honestly couldn't hear him miss any notes here at the Knitting Factory main space.
The set list itself might've been the ultimate highlight. The band played a wonderful mix of their discography, including four songs each off both their first and third full-lengths, five from the middle (Trainwreck), and the opener off their proper debut EP, 2002's Broken Bones and Bloody Kisses. As simple math and a glance below will tell you, that's 14 songs and a 1:05 playing time: not terrible at all for a band being the last of five live acts.
Last year, BNO did admittedly rectify that problem of playing songs from MYS at normal speed, and here they seemed to be taken down a notch again. However, they weren't nearly as slow as when that issue first took place -- rather, they've now found a comfortable medium that fits their current sound.
Whenever the song called for the blips and bloops on the studio version (i.e. "Hold on Tightly, Let Go Lightly," "Waking"), they were played pre-recorded, but getting out an auxiliary keyboard player (after 'boardist Kara Dupuy left almost exactly a year ago) just for said songs does seem excessive.
Crowd response was rather enthusiastic, too. Reactions were a little restrained for material off Boys Night Out, but nearly everything else was explosive. It felt like a gigantic party in the crowd for just about every song the band delivered.
That delivery, by the way, was as charismatic as I've seen the band. Lovat-Fraser offered mic time to plenty, was up front with the crowd about his voice, bounced around like a rabbit on meth, and towards the end assured the crowd there wouldn't be an encore, with the band finishing precisely that way and giving their thanks to their tourmates and fans during the introducing instrumental of "Composing."
While I would rank Boys Night Out's newest album slightly below the previous two, and their preceding DVD was just odd, I will absolutely vouch for the progress they've made in the live setting.
Set list (10:27-11:32):
- I Got Punched in the Nose for Sticking My Face in Other People's Business
- Purging -----
- Up with Me
- It's Dylan, You Know the Drill
- Get Your Head Straight -----
- Hold on Tightly, Let Go Lightly -----
- I Was the Devil for One Afternoon -----
- Medicating -----
- Apartment 4
- Waking -----
- Let Me Be Your Swear Word -----
- Where We Breathe -----