This was easily one of the longest drives to the city for me in years. 14 straight exits of delays on the LIE meant my cousin and I arrived just as the Dig were finishing their set. I didn't really watch enough of them to get a handle on what they were doing, but said cousin turned to me during that last song or so and muttered, "Uhhh...this sounds like Aerosmith." While the band's sound seemed a little more modest and down-to-earth than that, it may not have been far off in terms of rock bravado and scope. I can't really say.
Being able to take in a full set from Bad Veins, a better evaluation was able to be made. The band had a big, busy sound, so it was surprising to see that they were only a duo when I actually bothered to check halfway through the set. I couldn't even tell where they were getting all their layers and sonic nuances from. Musically, they played that sort of vaguely British-sounding, radio-friendly indie rock sound not unlike that of Tokyo Police Club, only with more dance beats and keys. Not anything I'd seek out immediately, but not a bad segue for Kevin Devine, either.
I couldn't help but notice that Kevin Devine's Goddamn Band tonight did not include talented multi-instrumentalist (and great solo songwriter) Brian Bonz. The band played as a stripped-down four-piece, which I don't think I've ever actually seen them do. While that meant that Bonz's unreal beat-boxing for "I Could Be with Anyone" was thus absent, and there weren't any keyboards to add those fuzzy coatings to the songs, the quartet made up for it by adding extra noisy guitar fits and adding a more loose, fussy noise rock flair overall.
Although this set list has seemed pretty unchanging throughout the support tour with Thrice, Devine is taking a lot of chances with an unfamiliar crowd--apparently, and to my dismay, just because you associate with Brand New, it doesn't mean your fanbases will overlap entirely. Devine had fans in the crowd, sure, but they were scattered in little bunches--you could hear them, but you couldn't see them...kinda like that "LOST" episode. Devine otherwise seemed to go criminally underappreciated, and so it seemed he threw caution to the wind when he opened with his longest song, the sprawling, epic title track to his latest album, Brother's Blood, complete with extended introduction. Among his other random tidbits were: an interlude-esque, truncated take on Leonard Cohen's "Democracy"; the "Fever Moon"-esque "She Stayed as Steam," a Brother's Blood outtake that appears on a new EP of B-sides, live takes and remixes; and a stripped-down, set-closing cover of LCD Soundsystem's "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down."
It was a great set, but that's become second nature for Devine and his band over the years. They've really developed into a stellar live act, but it helps when you have a discography and taste pool you can pull some fantastic songs from to complete it.
Set list (8:51-9:37):
- Brother's Blood
- Democracy (truncated Leonard Cohen cover/interlude)
- Another Bag of Bones
- Cotton Crush
- I Could Be with Anyone
- Buried by the Buzz
- Just Stay
- She Stayed as Steam
- New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down (LCD Soundsystem cover)
I thought Thrice had peaked in popularity some years ago, but that was another perception shot sharply down when the packed-out audience exploded with a raucous response as the band came out onto the stage and the groovy bassline opening "All the World Is Mad" was fingered. From there the band played an opening salvo whose highlights included the excellently spacey yet driving "Of Dust and Nations," the complex heaviness of "The Earth Will Shake" and the similarly intense "Firebreather" and "The Messenger"--the latter sequenced just like on 2007's Fire EP.
A comment overheard from one particular fella in the crowd to another as Thrice played the opening twang to "Come All You Weary" highlighted the idea that the band's fanbase still has a very "bro" orientation despite their musical experimentation and progression: "Let's go to the back, they're playing all the pussy songs." The "pussy songs" were sequenced well during the set's second quarter, though, with Air's "A Song for Milly Michaelson" preceding two from Beggars: the breathy, beautiful "Circles" and the shimmy-to-soft snarl of "Double Speak."
I was relieved that the guy in charge of lighting for this show cooled it down with the strobe--at Taking Back Sunday the night before, it was fucking blinding. A better mix of soft blues, reds, whites and purples splashed down onto the band that complemented their sound at every turn.
The song choices spread across the band's discography fared well, though I felt the "deeper cuts" could have easily been swapped with stronger, better ones from the respective albums. Vocalist/guitarist Dustin Kensrue said they hadn't played this one in at least four or five years before they kicked into one of their highest-charting singles in "Image of the Invisible," with Devine coming out on stage to sing along with guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Teppei Teranshini on his mic. It's an okay albeit needlessly repetitive song, but I'd have taken most anything else off Vheissu--what about "Red Sky" and its towering, gut-wrenching chorus, or the chilling, slow-moving spine tingles of "Atlantic"? And the one track from The Illusion of Safety, "To Awake and Avenge the Dead" (Kensrue sent it out to long-time fans) was cool, but the blistering intensity of "Kill Me Quickly" or "A Subtle Dagger" probably would have added a more unique element to the set.
Still, the band played absolutely solidly, and it was probably one of the better times I've seen 'em.
Set list (10:12-11:20):
- All the World Is Mad
- The Artist in the Ambulance
- Of Dust and Nations
- The Earth Will Shake
- The Messenger
- A Song for Milly Michaelson
- Double Speak
- Hold Fast Hope
- Come All You Weary
- In Exile
- Image of the Invisible
- To Awake and Avenge the Dead
- Stand and Feel Your Worth