Murder by Death - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)

Murder by Death

live in Chicago (2009)

live show

When I heard that Murder by Death was doing a tour where they would be playing the full albums Red of Tooth and Claw and Who Will Survive..., I knew I had to be there. These are easily my two favorite records of theirs. Combined with the fact that the original keyboardist was going to be along for the ride, it was official. My excitement only grew when I heard that Fake Problems were going to be opening. The last time I saw them was two years ago, opening for Against Me!.

I was a little late getting to the show tonight. I could have sworn doors were at 6:30, but it turns out Fake Problems were going on then. I got there about 10 minutes into their set and hurried to catch as much as I could. Most of what I heard was new material and oh how magnificent it sounded. I don't know what they opened with, but I imagine it was "1,2,3,4." I was disappointed because I really wanted to see that and sing along. To hell with the fact that I downloaded the album; I pre-ordered that shit months ago and it just shipped yesterday. It truly is an amazing album and far supersedes anything Fake Problems has done before and stands as a strong contender for best album of 2009 already. It was refreshing to see the intensity and energy that this band has on stage. It was this same passion that had me hooked on them some years ago. I could hear a few people in the audience singing along with their songs which was nice. They only had a half-hour to play and the set ended rather abruptly as nobody realized they were out of time as they started up their last song. I was happy to visit their merch table afterward and pick up The Dream Team EP and their split EP with Look Mexico.

Second up tonight were the Builders and the Butchers. I had never heard this band before, so I retreated to the coat check area to talk with my friend who had also never heard of them. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this band. They had quite an ensemble of musical instruments. There were banjos, mandolins, squeeze boxes and the staple guitar, bass, and drum, all of which was acoustic. I could best describe their sound as upbeat folk and country all intertwined and given a certain edge. Their percussion section was two drummers working at separate pieces for the most part, each of whom wore a tambourine on their feet. Their infectious melodies carried throughout the club and one could not help but dance. The highlight of their set had to have been when they started handing out instruments to the crowd. They were tossing tambourines and maracas, but the best part was when they passed a bass drum to the crowd. It was such an awesome experience to watch such a high level of audience participation. My friend and I were in agreement that we did not want this band to end because they were just that good.

Having just seen Murder by Death back in November with William Elliott Whitmore, I was unsure how they were going to be able to top that show. However, this band continues to surprise me. Their theatrics tonight were just unbelievable. Accompanying their set was a collection of classic film clips containing some of the most absurd and wonderful things imaginable. It was hard to pay attention to their set, take pictures and see what was going on on screen, but it was done. The clips seemed to fit so seamlessly with their macabre songs and it set the perfect atmosphere. The only downside came when the film ran out before the songs did. That was due in part to Adam's elaborate explanation of their shenanigans of the previous evening involving what they called a "Bed Taco." The story was incredibly humorous and involved them wrapping their bassist in his mattress several times in a row at 3 in the morning.

Performance-wise, MBD were spot on. Adam's voice resonates so powerfully live and manages to strike somewhere deep inside me when I hear it. It was funny to hear him reference playing like Whitesnake by putting his foot on a box and just playing the shit out of his guitar. By the way, his black flame guitar is one of the most amazing instruments I've ever seen. The cellist, Sara is such a beautiful woman. Watching her play tonight was something else. I was right in front of her for the duration of Red of Tooth and Claw. You could feel her passion and love for her music come through not just in the notes, but in her face and body movements. She seems to travel outside of her body and take on the essence of the songs. It was almost sensual to watch her hands moving up and down the neck combined with her facial expressions and the way she threw her body to the rhythm. Vince's keyboard playing is always a welcome addition to any MBD performance and he was a huge part of the success of tonight's show. They way he seems to know the songs and add his own style to them is something I believe that only he could do.

After playing through the two albums of the evening, the band came on and did a few encores. They played "Brother," which I was very happy to hear. That is one of my favorite tracks off In Bocca al Lupo. They also performed a very old song that I did not recognize because I am not too familiar with their older material. They closed with a few instrumental pieces off of Like the Exorcist....

This was one of the most amazing shows I have seen in a while and not even the obnoxious drunks that littered the club that night could spoil it. If you get the opportunity to catch this tour, do yourself a favor and be there.

Fake Problems
Murder by Death