Little Lies and Massive Dreams

My name is Bear. I play in a band called Talking About Commas and live and work in Providence, RI. I like music.
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Nov 19, 2007

Celebrating "Providence Day" with Bright Eyes

Once again my faith in Conor Oberst is fully restored. I just have to face the fact that unlike his studio efforts, his live performances can be hit or miss. Last spring I saw the big production Bright Eyes (with strings, horns and 2 drummers) drunkenly blast through a predictable set supporting Cassadaga. Last weekend, I saw the stripped down, sober version flex whichever muscle supports their vast repertoire. Bright Eyes played two hours comprising of a splendid mix of selections from six different albums (plus one new song and 2 covers).

In typical fashion the band hit the stage first, setting up the entrance of their dark haired brainchild, before easing into “An Attempt to Tip the Scales" (a song that was released seven years ago). This was music to my ears, literally and figuratively. Note to self: See Bright Eyes when they are not directly promoting a new album, the set list is much more enjoyable.

Conor continued to lead the band, which this tour only consisted of 5 members (including Conor, last spring there were twelve), through a wonderful journey that celebrated his entire catalogue. He even threw in the rare “Spring Cleaning” which is off his split EP with Nena Dinova, a song he doesn’t even sing on the album. Conor kept the crowd engaged with funny banter complete with a declaration of his own holiday, Providence Day. “Providence Day is now a holiday that takes place of the Saturday before Thanksgiving of every year ” he decreed, much the enjoyment of the huge Rhode Island crowd.

For some of the encore Conor brought out his opening bands (Nick Freitas and the Felice Bros.) to help with sing-a-long style takes on Neil Young’s “Walk On” and Tom Petty’s “Walls” (which I thought to be a great cover choice). Most people would cover an older Petty tune but that man has continued to write gems his whole career. I forgot how much I liked that song. The show closed with a politically fueled stampede of a song that fans are dubbing “Roosevelt’s Room” (there is no official title for the unreleased song) which culminated with destroying guitars, mic stands and the drum kit. We get it Conor, you’re pissed off.... but at least you have your songs to pass the time.

Set List: An Attempt to Tip the Scales, Another Traveling Song, Four Winds, You Will..., Arienette, Arc of Time, Method Acting, If the Brakeman Turns My Way, Spring Cleaning, Bowl of Oranges, Poison Oak, Old Soul Song (For the New World Order), A Song to Pass the Time

E: Lover I Don’t Have to Love, Lua*, Walk On**^, Walls***^, Roosevelt’s Room

* w/ One of the Felice Bros on Accordian. ** Neil Young cover. *** Tom Petty cover. ^ with Nick Feitas and all of the Felice Bros.

Nov 14, 2007

Broken Social Scene lacks their famous cohorts, but not heart

It’s recently been relayed to me that my reviews on this blog are often overly critical. Well too bad, (Eminem once said “Will Smith don’t have to cuss in his records, well I do. So fuck him and fuck you too!” Some may say that is a harsh lyric, I think its hilarious and spot on. Anywho...) I’m a musician and I know what I’m talking about. Plus, this was never intended to be a blog where “everybody wins”. I write it how I see it, it’s all I can do. That said, Broken Social Scene blew my fucking face off last night, so you’re in for a positive one.

In support of first installment of the “Broken Social Scene Presents” series, Kevin Drew’s Spirit If..., The band (well half of it. No horns or leading ladies this night) sold-out the intimate Paradise Rock Club in Boston. This incarnation of BSS featured some typical players and some new ones, most notably American Analog Set’s Andrew Kenny.

The band took the stage at 9:15 (they left the stage at close to 11:45, nice) and launched into “Lucky Ones” off the new disc before playing the first of many older tunes, “Cause = Time”. I like. The entire band seemed to be fighting a head cold, all were drinking water or tea (Kevin even bitched about the ceiling fan on the stage not being turned off saying “I’m smart enough to know that cold sweat on your neck is not a good thing”) but they didn’t let it bring the show down. If anything, they rocked harder.

The intimacy of the crowd allowed Kevin and Brendan to hear all of the crowd’s (mostly innane) shout outs. One guy even called for “Freebird” to which Kevin quipped, “Whatever positive things you have contributed to society, you took them all back with that remark”...Classic. The thing about BSS is that their music is powerful, arty and amazing enough that they could be high on their horse and be total dicks. However, they are so down to earth that you just want to smoke a joint with them and pick their brains. They politely rejected song requests they couldn’t pull off (like “Shoreline”, which they teased briefly) without the assistance of a female vocalist and even brought a guy onstage who requested the very song they were about to play, before “Gang Bang Suicide”.

Aside from all the hilarious and interesting banter, the music was fantastic. With only 6 people on stage (there can be up to 14), the songs still resonated deeply with the crowd and got the whole place dancing and singing along. “Backed Out on the....” and “Major Label Debut (fast)” bursted with energy and purpose alike. There was no crowd chit-chat, all eyes were on BSS. It was nice to be at a show were everyone was so involved and attentive, a real group outing. Reminds me of many Phish shows I’ve seen back in the day where everyone was stoked about what they saw. The end of the night was a one guitar accompanied crowd sing-a-long of Spirit If’s closer “When it Begins” which was a moment I’ll never forget. The song is simple but brilliant and in the words of Drew himself, possibly “too beautiful to fuck”.

The opener, Seattle’s Arthur and Yu, played some pretty indie-folk but unfortunately the soundman must have been out smoking a butt during their set. The bass way too high in the mix and you could barely hear the vocals. Alright here's my one critical letter of the night - Dear Arthur and Yu, two guitarists playing the exact same chord shape at the same time the whole show is not that cool, also don’t be afraid to play a minor chord once in a while.

Set List: Lucky Ones, Cause = Time, Fucked Up Kid, Safety Bricks, Tbtf > Stars and Sons, Brendan Canning song*, Bullet in Your Head**, Backed out on the..., Superconnected, So Hard to Shake It***, Gang Bang Suicide, Farewell to the Pressure Kids, Major Label Debut (fast), 7/4 Shoreline tease > It's All Gonna break

E: When it Begins > feedback**** > jam

* from Brendan's forthcoming solo album. ** not sure of title so I guessed. *** American Analog Set song, guessed on title.**** the whole band left the stage (as did much of the crowd) but Brendan stayed and played a bunch of feedback until the rest of the band came out and jammed for a bit. Andrew Kenny (of American Analog Set) played keyboards and guitar the whole show.