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Brand New Returns Home With Mixed Results

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Brand New, Glassjaw, Crime in Stereo
Oakdale Theater, Wallingford CT
November 25th 2009

On the night before Thanksgiving, Brand New would make a stop in Connecticut on their way to a homecoming show on Long Island. While it would have been easy to mail it in knowing home was less than two hours away, the band put in another great effort, ripping though old favorites as well as the majority of tracks from their latest effort, Daisy.

Just like in Boston a week earlier (read my review here), new songs received only a luke-warm reception, while cuts such as “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” and “Okay I Believe You but my Tommy Gun Don’t” had the crowd up in arms. The only disappointing aspect of the set was that it was about 15 minutes shorter than their Boston effort and excluded other fan favorites such as “Mixed Tape” and “The Shower Scene.”

The shorter set shouldn’t take away from the fact that Jesse Lacey and Co. were once again first-rate, proving that even when they should have one foot out the door, they’re still one of today’s great live bands.

Brand New, Glassjaw, Thrice, Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale New York
November 29th 2009

You would think this one would deserve its own review, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, Brand New’s  biggest ever headlining show didn’t quite live

Glassjaw's Palumbo

up to expectations. With support from a hand full of their favorite bands at an arena just minutes from where they grew up, I think everyone who made their way inside the Nassau Coliseum was expecting something special. What they got was something very ordinary.

The main reason the show wasn’t the rousing success it should have been was the time constraints placed on each band. Five acts on one stage is too many, and it became quite obvious when openers Kevin Devine, Manchester Orchestra, and Thrice were all limited to very short sets. Main support Glassjaw was allowed to play longer, and put on the type of show that has made them Long Island legends, at least to those who mixed it up on the floor of the cavernous arena. Daryl Palumbo was at his deranged best, singing and screaming his vocal cords to shreds.

The best way to describe the headliners set would be “loud.” The speakers which towered above the stage pumped out the type of sound that could finally do justice to tracks such as “Sink” and “Gasoline.” The band did their part by turning in the frenzied performance all of their fans have come to expect.  There was very little between song banter for a hometown show, which wasn’t much of a surprise considering Jessey Lacey is rarely one to wax poetic in such situations.

The most memorable moment of the night was not an individual song, but was when the band finally paused to look around at the thousands of occupied seats stretching high up the rafters. Understated as always, Lacey simply said “This is big… Bigger than my bedroom.”

The band closed the set with “Seventy Times 7” much sooner than the crowd had hoped, most likely due to a curfew imposed by the venue. While the thousands who filed out of the arena left satisfied, this should have been the type of show that is talked about for years to come, but I doubt that will be the case. The second acoustic stage featuring old favorites Vinnie Caruana of The Movielife and Andy Jackson of Hot Rod Circuit was a very nice touch, as were the four bands who opened on the main stage. However, the next time Brand New returns to Long Island, hopefully they will keep the focus where it belongs, which is squarely on themselves.

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Rise Against and Alkaline Trio in Hampton Beach

October 26, 2008 1 comment

If you’re like me (and millions of other people), you saw The Dark Knight this summer. If you’re even more like me, you saw it twice. Maybe you liked it better the second time, or maybe you preferred the surprise of the first viewing. Either way, the movie you saw was exactly the same both times. Now imagine that when you saw The Dark Knight for a second time, you realized that a scene or two had been changed. While the differences were subtle, they just happened to make the movie quite a bit better and more memorable. In a way, that is what happened when I went to see Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, Thrice, and the Gaslight Anthem for the second time in less than a week. While each band stuck to the forumla that was so successfull in Worcester five days earlier, a few welcome surprises made this show every bit as exciting as the first go around.

Hampton Beach isn’t the easiest place to get to. Actually, it probably is, but we somehow missed the exit and ended up taking a scenic tour of southern New Hampshire. This meant then when we finally made it to the venue, we were only able to catch the last four songs of the Gaslight Anthem’s set. Surprisingly, I didn’t even recognize the first three of those, meaning they weren’t from their latest release, The ’59 Sound. This was surprising because their set in Worcester consisted almost exclusively of songs from this record. They closed their set with “The Backseat,” which of course sounded great. The band plans to do their own headlining tour beginning in March, and that certainly can’t come soon enough.

In between sets, I look a second to take in the rather strange surroundings. Hampton Beach Casion Ballroom is a large rectangular room that looks like it was build sometime in the 50’s. As one of my friends said, if anyone ever lit a match in there, there would be some serious issues, for the interior is covered in wood paneling. Also, the stage seems to be located in the wrong place, on one of the long ends of the rectangle, putting more people closer to the front of the stage, but also leaving huge empty expanses of to the sides. The venue is located on Hampton’s main strip, right across from the beach and next to numerous tacky fried dough and souvenir shops. I’m not sure where the “casino” part comes in, because I certainly didn’t see any slots, but the building did have a gaudy Las Vegas style sign out front. It seems to fit the vibe of the entire town pretty well.

Next up was Thrice. Now I hadn’t been thrilled by thier set in Worcester, but tonight I would say they were more enjoyable. I especially liked the inclusion of “Music Box” in the set list, and “The Earth Will Shake” was once again executed perfectly as their last song. However, I was somewhat surprised that the crowd as a whole didn’t seem to know them very well. Sure, there were the diehards up front singing every word, but it certainly paled in comparison to the crowd at the Palladium.

After a rather long wait, Alkaline Trio took the stage to an ethusiastic roar and openned thier set once again with “Private Eye.” While the crowd seemed a great deal more interested in the Trio than they did in Thrice, the intensity level was still nowhere near what it was in Worcester. This wasn’t nessecarily a bad thing, for I was able to enjoy the set near the front of the stage and only came out with a few minor bruises. Also, I must mention just how happy Matt Skiba once again looked to on stage that night. He came out with an ear to ear grin on his face, and it pretty much didn’t leave until the band finished their set. Seeing how he feeds off the energy of the crowd and mouths the words to even Dan’s songs still impresses me, even with this being the forth live show I had seen the band perform this year.

While the setlist included only two different songs than the ones played a week earlier in the Worcester, those two substitutions made a world of difference, being that they were two songs I was dying to hear. The slightly tame “I Was a Prayer,” as well as the new track “Over and Out” were left out, as fan-favorite b-side “Warbrain” and Agony and Irony track “Love Love Kiss Kiss” were played consecutively. The fact that “Love Love Kiss Kiss” is one of the best tracks off their new cd, yet I had never seen them play it live made it that much better. Once again, a huge sing-along version of “This Could Be Love” served as a perfect closer to a great set.

Much like Alkaline Trio, Rise Against would not disapoint, displaying their trademark intesity throughout the show and also including a pleasent surprise in the set list. With their new record Appeal to Reason having now been on shelves for nearly a week, the tracks they played from that record were better received than they were in Worcester. This was especially true for “Hero of War,” the accoustic track which is sure to be a staple of their encores for years to come. The setlist was, however, still heavy with songs from 2006’s The Suffererer and the Witness. Due to the fact that the crowd wasn’t quite as rough as it had been in Worcester, I was able to actually watch Tim McIlrath and company on stage. I’m somewhat surpised the lead singer didn’t burst a blood vein during the set, considering the amount of intensity on his face, especially at the start of the set.

The highlight of the show for me was undoubtedly the moment they announced they would play “Broken English.” The track from 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute is one I’ve always consider perfect for a live setting, yet had never seen them play. It completely lived up to my expectations, inspiring a huge cirlce pit in the middle of the floor that saw some great crowd participation. The band once again closed their show with the combination of “Survive,” “Under the Knife,” and “Prayer of the Refuge.” Considering I’ve already praised their live show to such a great extent in my previous review, it’s difficult not to repeat myself, but I have to once again say that Rise Against is easily one of my favorite live bands, for they give everything they have every single night. While they haven’t reinvented punk music by any means, they have, in many ways, perfected it, writing songs that are not only socially aware and inspire action on behalf of the listener, but also sounds great both on record and in a live setting.

Rise Against and Alkaline Trio in Worcester

October 14, 2008 1 comment

This is the tour of the year. If you think differently, I think you’re wrong. Any time you pair two of today’s biggest and most prolific punk bands on the same bill, you’re certain to get great shows that will attract thousands of fans at venues all across the country. Throw in one of the scene’s most innovative post-hardcore bands, along with an act generally acknowledged to be “the next big thing,” and you have a touring match made in Heaven. Monday’s date in Worcester at the Palladium somehow lived up to the hype, providing one of the most intense live show experiences I’ve ever been apart of, while confirming the headliner’s standing as one of today’s most popular, influential, and vital rock bands.

The night began with a short set from New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem. The much talked about and self

The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon

The Gaslight Anthem

described “soul band” put on a very enjoyable show that mainly featured material from their latest release The ’59 Sound. Lead singer Brian Fallon’s signature “soulful” vocal work took center stage while guitarist Alex Rosamila admirably led harder driving songs such “Old White Lincoln” and “The Backseat.” While only a few in the crowd (which was already quite large at this point) seemed to be familiar with the act, the band seemed to do well in winning them over during the set.

Next was Orange County’s Thrice. While the band has strayed quite far from their post-hardcore roots with their most recent releases, they showed that they can still bring the heat in a live setting. Dustin Kensrue spent most of the set screaming his lungs out, while drummer Riley Breckenridge pounded his kit into oblivion. For the first few songs, I couldn’t help but think “wow, these guys are heavy.” However, that thought soon turned to “wow, these songs all sound the same,” and then transformed into “wow, I’m kind of bored here.” Despite their technical prowess, I simply wasn’t that interested in their set. They did end on a high note however with “The Earth Will Shake,” a standout track from their 2005 record Vheissu. I have plenty of respect for the band and their ability to write great songs, but I was a little to excited to see the two bands that would soon take the stage.

Next, a black banner embossed with a familiar logo was unfurled, candles were lit, and all hell broke loose.

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio took the stage to a roar from the crowd and broke into “Private Eye.” The band just happens to have two perfect songs with which to open a set (and a record), and they segwayed  into “Calling All Skeletons,” the biting first track from their latest effort Agony and Irony. The band then continued the onslaught with old favorite “I Lied My Face Off.” While they might not have been the headliner, it was obvious that the majority of the crowd knew Alkaline Trio and knew them well, judging by the reaction to this song.

The band would go on to play the staples from the new record, including “Help Me,” “In Vein,” and “I Found Away.” They also played “Over and Out” for the first time ever. “Cringe,” the opening track from Goddamnit was a very pleasant surprised and received a huge reaction from the crowd. The only iffy point  was the Crimson track “I Was A Prayer,” which is a nice song, but didn’t quite pack the energy of any of the set’s other songs. The band would close with another huge sing along moment in “This Could Be Love,” during which guitarist/front man Matt Skiba pointed out an enthusiastic fan and had the rest of the crowd sing the chorus to him. What has surprised me each time I have seen Alkaline Trio this year, and especially on this night, is how much fun they seem to be having on stage. Many veteran bands who have seen the same type of success would scoff at an opening role, especially after having released a major label debut earlier this year. However, both Skiba and bassist Dan Adriano had huge smiles on their faces for the majority of the time and were undoubtedly excited to playing the show. While a headlining tour may suit them better simply due to their enormous catalog, they were the perfect warm up for another venerable Chicago favorite.

Rise Against

Rise Against

Rise Against entered the room to some type of distorted spoken-word introduction which was mainly drowned out by static and the cheering crowd. From here, they would burst into a furious rendition of “Drones.” In the few glances I caught of front man Tim McIllrath during the song, it looked like he was perilously close to suffering a burst vain and/or crushing the microphone. Such intensity would continue into the next song, “Give It All,” the band’s first breakthrough hit. From here on out, it’s a little difficult to remember exactly what was played because I was more concerned with surviving than taking mental set-list notes. I’ve been to a lot of shows, and a lot of rough ones, but this one might take the cake in that area, and I have the scratches and bruises to prove it.Throughout the set, bodies were being thrown around like rag dolls in the pit, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been in car crashes that were more pleasant than what I experienced when I ventured into the center of it. Luckily, everyone was watching out everyone else, and the second someone hit the ground there were often four hands there to immediatly pick them up.

The fact that I didn’t exactly see most of what happened on stage shouldn’t take away from another excellent Rise Against performance. They sounded great, and while the set list was heavy with tracks from 2006’s The Sufferer and the Witness, there was enough of a mix of old and new to keep most fans happy. The band played three new tracks from Appeal to Reason, set to be released the next day but already for sale at the band’s merch table. They were lead song “Reeducation (Through Labor),” album openner “Collapse” and the haunting acoustic number “Hero of War,” which was played near the end of the show along with “Swing Life Away.” Two songs from 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute were also played, those being “Like The Angel” and “Halfway There.”

The band finished their set with a bone-crushing combination of “Survive,” “Under the Knife,” and finally “Prayer of the Refuge,” which insipred a wild pit that consumed most of the floor. By the time the lights came back on and the band had left the stage, many in the crowd were covered in sweat and bruises, but most would agree that they would trade the opportunity to see a tour this good for a few aches and pains any day.

Rise Against Set List (Probably not in order or quite right)
Drones
Give It All
Injection
State of the Union
Ready to Fall
Re-Education
Chamber the Cartridge
Stained Glass and Marble
Behind Closed Doors
Like the Angel
Collapse
Bricks
Halfway There
The Good Left Undone
Hero of War
Swing Life Away

(Encore)
Survive
Under the Knife
Prayer of the Refugee