Murder by Death - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)

Murder by Death

live in Chicago (2008)

live show

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing the live show of Murder by Death along with their soulful buddy William Elliott Whitmore and this band from Baltimore, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, who I had not had a chance to listen to. I spent some time thinking to myself that if J. Roddy was playing a solo set and the Business (as in the band) played, what an odd sort of show that would have been.

First up: that very band, J. Roddy Walston and his Business. I caught most of their set and I was kind of charmed by their bar-room rock and/or roll with some piani playin' to boot. The majority of them were longhairs, including the bass player who reminded me a lot of one of my good friends with the added bonus of a substantial 'stache. Icing on the cake was when he took out his thick-framed dark-rimmed glasses to actually be able to see shit as he was roadie-ing his own gear. These tour-scruffed and grizzly looking dudes were a fun group to watch with their brand of 3/4, beer-soaked piano crooners. A few songs in I overheard the following conversation of fellow showgoers:

"That guy looks like your old roommate."
"They all do."

I couldn't help but relate. They seemed like friends and I've never met them. They were able to get the blood moving enough and probably loud enough to blow out the non-plugged ears of some of the unlucky ones in the crowd.

Next up: William Elliott Whitmore. If you were to pick him out of a crowd, I'd tell you to look for the bearded feller with the funny-lookin' hat. I'm betting he's abbreviated his name as Wm. once or twice. The J. Roddy's Business boys called him "Will." I don't know what the two or three people in the audience who brought him the whiskey tumblers to shoot or sip during his solo, banjo-highlighted, vocally-dominated set would call him, though. The Iowan exudes a Midwestern gothic-gospel vibe that wouldn't not be at home in Yoknapatawpha County. His 150-year-old voice complements at first his banjo and then his weathered old steel-string beautifully. Wm left the stage having pleased his old fans and gained many new ones.

Out came Murder by Death to delight the crowd with favorites spanning their entire back catalogue with the help of former ivory-tickler Vincent Edwards who, despite "leaving" the band, has appeared on each of the band's last two triumphant efforts, Red of Tooth and Claw and In Bocca al Lupo. They played plenty from the former and many from the latter, along with their songs about whiskey, the devil, and their chansons d'horreur.

They obliged the crowd with an encore, a final build-up leaving everyone blueballed for the three nights they were doing at smaller clubs that they have since announced to be Schuba's, the Beat Kitchen and Reggie's. All three nights are with Vincent Edwards again and are going to include their "Desert Series," playing Red of Tooth and Claw and then Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them?.

Overall, a very enjoyable show -- 9 out of 10, with the only marks off for people who were smoking during the Little Joe Gould stuff and not sharing their weed.