I happened to log on to the Knitting Factory's website Wednesday to check a show listing for a future date, only to see that Attack in Black were playing that night. Holy shit! This is a band who put out, easily, one of my favo(u)rite albums of 2007 and rarely play the U.S. In fact, I'd find out later that the band had played maybe three shows in the U.S. ever prior to this one -- a few in Texas (presumably South by Southwest) and one in Rochester. After some pestering phone calls, I managed to finagle my way into a really, really sold out show that was headlined by City and Colour.
Being it was one of Attack in Black's first shows in the U.S., many in the crowd were not at all familiar with them. In fact, if you base it completely off the number of people even remotely singing along and/or requesting specific songs, there were maybe three or four fans (including myself) in attendance. So although New York is clearly not a top market for them quite yet, the band put on an expectedly invigorating and great performance. Their set consisted largely of tracks from the fantastic Marriage, but they were to sure to throw in a few numbers off The Curve of the Earth -- plugged in, of course. The audience generally gave a warm reception, occasionally clapping along at the band's behest, but were clearly pre-programmed for the softer and more acoustic-oriented City and Colour as they rarely shifted from stoically standing in place. That seemed sort of weird to me, because the band's big Band vibe shouldn't have been that off-putting to a group already familiar with the fairly rootsy approach of City and Colour's Dallas Green.
So while the band weren't really commanding much of a fanbase there, they were entertaining the newcomers. On one or two songs, the rhythm section swapped instruments and didn't miss a beat; casual banter was friendly; and the songs resonated with their punk-tinged, down-home feel perfectly. In particular, the somber, morose studio version of "Chimes and Church Bells" was transformed into an upbeat and driving live rocker, which was rather cool to hear. Of course, the obvious highlight was closer and my favorite off the album, "Marriage." I felt like frontman Daniel Romano was a little restrained at the end of some of his lines here, not quite matching the aggression and earnestness of the song's studio counterpart, but it didn't detract much from things. I was also curious to see how the band would finish it due to the album version's bizarrely abrupt cutoff, and they did so with a similarly sudden stop, but it was one that felt more like a proper climactic conclusion. That was needed, it being the end of a really impressive and enjoyable set.
For an ideal set from Attack in Black, I envision a gruff, active crowd standing on an oak floor with the band next to a fireplace in an old, warm country house singing along at the top of their lungs and pumping fists (think Latterman), and maybe one day such an environment that caters to the band more will be possible in the States. For now, this experience will have to do.
Set list (7:59-8:44):
- Inches and Ages -----
- Chimes and Church Bells -----
- The Love Between You and I
- Come What May -----
- Hunger of the Young -----
- If All I Thought Were True -----
- I'm Going to Forget -----
- Young Leaves -----
- You're Such an Only Child -----
For the most part, the first half he played with a full band -- just a rhythm section accompaniment, really -- and went solo the second. As expected, the crowd was very receptive, often singing along in unison with Green. From my vantage point I couldn't really see that dedicated fanbase, but their choral participation seemed to be accompanied by a relaxed, astute stance. Fangirl screams and "OMG!" attitudes were at a thankful premium despite the predominantly teenage girl makeup of the crowd. They also seemed to appreciate the "really fun version" of "Waiting...," as was promised beforehand. Green's banter was cordial and honest, and he seemed pleased when he mentioned this was his first sold out show in the U.S.
Honestly, Green may have played an encore, but we left after "Boiled Frogs." It seemed like that would be the case, though.
Overall, Attack in Black delivered nearly exactly what I envisioned, even if I'd prefer to experience such a thing with a few fellow fans. I'm still a little confounded that City and Colour managed to pack out a decently sized venue in a city where Mae was playing a show the same night, but I was slightly less bored than expected and he may have convinced me I at least have a new comfort album to fall asleep to.
Set list (9:00ish-10:06, not counting potential encore):
- Forgive Me
- The Death of Me -----
- Sam Malone -----
- Hello, I'm in Delaware -----
- Waiting... -----
- Sometimes (I Wish) -----
- Body in a Box -----
- Against the Grain -----
- Day Old Hate -----
- ? -----
- What Makes a Man -----
- Boiled Frogs (Alexisonfire)