Alkaline Trio / Cursive - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Alkaline Trio / Cursive

live in New York (2010)

live show

I've been reading about scattered Alkaline Trio fans being bored by the Dear and Departed live, but having enjoyed their recent EP, Chapters, I was kinda looking forward to them. An old English archival-sounding clip type thing played over the PA for their intro; I'd get lazy and mention the Smiths, but this sounded a few decades older than something Moz would routinely sample. Chapters itself is a perfectly polished piece of '80s-influenced goth-pop, but the band was looser than I'd expected live. That wasn't to say they were sloppy or anything--just thankfully more raw and less rehearsed than you might expect from a band so glossy on record. It reared back the potential cheesiness for something like the carefree vibes of "Tambourine Love" and the ever-so-slight melancholy of shimmering opener "Matter of Time." A lot of their guitar tones sounded really crisp and solid, as well. The band only played two songs from their 2007 full-length, Something Quite Peculiar--but I've never actually heard that LP, and even I felt like the only person in the crowd who was even familiar with Chapters. So that was probably a smart set list composition for a big support tour like this. If you actually liked that first Nightmare of You album and similarly pristine examples of that '80s influence, recommended; otherwise, tough call.

Set list (8:00-8:30):

  1. Matter of Time
  2. Did You Hear a Knock?
  3. Tambourine Love
  4. Day to Day
  5. Hometown Hero
  6. There for the Taking

By the time Cursive took the stage a refreshingly scant 15 minutes later, I was a few rum tum tummers deep and rather excited. Weird bro pits aside, their set was probably the highlight of the night. It was one of those sets where Tim Kasher and the rest of his band--or maybe just Kasher himself?--was clearly inebriated yet played with such a fervor and ragged, naked aggression that the slight off-timing was perfectly acceptable. They're just one of those bands that can get away with it every time.

It helped that the set list was a healthy mix of stuff from their last three full-lengths, as well as a fan favorite from Domestica. With 45 minutes to get in and out--and even then the band promptly cut the cord three minutes early--Kasher didn't say a word between songs, simply going reel-to-reel, one song after the other. Whether that was the enlivened energy of "Dorothy at Forty," the pained howling of "Butcher the Song" or the fitful post-hardcore grooves of the "The Martyr," it was awesome.

It seemed during "Dorothy at Forty," though, that there were very few Cursive fans actually here, much like their spot on the Mastodon/Against Me! tour a few years back. But with explosive, wild reactions for cuts off The Ugly Organ later on and some acknowledgement for tracks off last year's Mama, I'm Swollen, it was clear they had a solid number here.

Set list (8:45-9:27):
  1. Dorothy at Forty
  2. Mama, I'm Swollen
  3. Butcher the Song
  4. Retreat!
  5. From the Hips
  6. A Gentleman Caller
  7. Let Me Up
  8. Art Is Hard
  9. The Martyr
  10. Big Bang
  11. I Couldn't Love You

Alkaline Trio played well but I just wasn't into it as much as I would have expected. That's by little-to-no fault of the band's, as they seemed to play solid enough. Maybe the crowd on the floor was a little stuffy and spastically raucous; maybe some of the song transitions didn't flow so well; and perhaps the band's energy level seemed a little sapped for the slower, cleaner numbers. Still, it was a pretty enjoyable set and the band played tight enough. They didn't play with that second guitarist, either, and you couldn't tell the difference; they sounded big, bold and, oddly, upbeat enough all the same.

It was very cool to hear them play a couple off the self-titled collection and Maybe I'll Catch Fire, but I was severely calloused by the lack of "Radio." And I love "Sadie" but I actually mistook it for "Fuck You Aurora" at first; that riff/vibe recycling habit of theirs in recent years definitely made this set occasionally confusing like that. And if you're closing with a sappy lone-guitar number, does anyone else think "Sorry About That" one ups "Blue in the Face" in that department?

Testament to the band's effort at instilling a throwback mode for This Addiction, though, those songs mixed into the set list rather cleanly and finely. It was rare that they jumped out (save the punchy title track, which opened the set), but there were no awkwardly poppy moments--even when a Cursive member came out to do the trumpet part in "Lead Poisoning" (he nailed it).

The expected cover of Misfits' "Attitude," which found the band switching instruments, was pretty cool. But "Continental" dedicated to GG Allin for some reason...? Groan.

Set list (10:01-11:09):
  1. This Addiction
  2. Armageddon
  3. Emma
  4. Dine, Dine My Darling
  5. We've Had Enough
  6. Lead Poisoning
  7. Mr. Chainsaw
  8. Dead on the Floor
  9. Fatally Yours
  10. Crawl
  11. Mercy Me
  12. Goodbye Forever
  13. In Vein
  14. Continental
  15. Blue Carolina
  16. Sadie
  17. Nose Over Tail
  18. '97
    Encore (11:13-11:22):
  19. Fine
  20. Attitude [Misfits cover]
  21. Blue in the Face
The prospect of a tandem this powerful didn't quite live up to my expectations, but this was a cool show nonetheless. I'd still probably take it over a "pretty good" three-band support trio most days of the week, anyway.