Now that it is settling in and the initial ecstasy of it all is waning, I can say that in all honesty it was one of the best shows I've ever witnessed. Up there with Ben Harper's 3.5 hour performance at 9:30 Club a few years back. Likewise Radiohead at Tower Theatre, DFA 1979/QOTSA/NIN at the Verizon Center, The National/Arcade Fire at DAR, TMV, TVotR, Boris, Eddie at The Wiltern, the list goes on....It was epic. And I will forever wax nostalgiac about how this band literally exceeded every impossible expectation I had for them. Studio recordings ain't got shit on what it sounds like - what it feels like - to hear those vocals live in the midst of a balls out rock and roll assault.
I really don't know how to, in some way, capture what it was like to be within maximum effective range of Jim James & company a couple of nights back. Without getting lost in Sabine's reverberation equation we need to somehow make sense of it all; figuring critical distances will only lead to a maddening plunge down a dark rabbit-hole. And you probably won't hear the vocals down there. Things are good and firm up here on planet earth. Down there, you probably won't feel the goosebumps on the back of your neck emerge when that madcap lunatic with the beard (who has spent the better part of two and a half hours doing things with his vocal chords you couldn't possibly imagine) hits the pedal on "Run Thru" and deepens your plunge into eclecticmusicalecstasy with a Reznor-worthy riff thats been building for five minutes or so. The muted jab on the strings sounds like a pistol grip pump - the not-so-calm before the storm type of foreshadowing that draws your breath away and makes your jaw drop right before Mr. James and Mr. Broemel unleash some of the nastiest guitarwork you've ever witnessed (and you've seen Jack, John, Omar, Ben, Nels, Adam and the like).
But don't go down that rabbit hole either. Don't go comparing or associating. Don't get lost in the categories. Prince, Floyd, Zeppelin, Petty, Elvis, The Boss, they're all there somewhere. So where are we, right now? If time is reflected on the x-axis and we're strictly speaking of the evolution of rock and roll - y'know...where. we're. headed. - where is this band taking us? It's all meeting and merging, exploding and imploding, destroying and creating by the time you get to the chorus, if there even is one. There's too many branches, but it's all so focused and contained. And two and a half hours never went by so fast. And how is it, that the mastermind behind all of this, that guy with the beard and the towel draped across his brow, the one that just did three knee slides the length of the stage, while he was playing during the outro, how is it that he seems to be having more fun than I am? Because I'm having a pretty good fucking time, right now.
Looking back on it you realize how American it all is. But not that nationalistic spew they're shoving down your throat when we club other malnourished, tiny nations to death on the Olympics. No. Not that faux-patriotism that you slap magnetic on the back of your SUV. This is that truly American promise of anything's possible, the America that I like to believe in. Potential. A million ways to the same place. Creating an interpretation of life through every influence that has ever crossed a synapse in your brain. A melting pot. And everyone gets to choose which way to go. Like walking into a country music bar and pumping some Boris on the jukebox and everybody being cool with it. (Give us a few decades and a few more bands like this and we'll get there.) But, they'd been thinking about all of this long before the rest of us, sponging it all up - motown, metal, disco, reggae, country, folk, intro, outro, solo, bridge, keys, brass, and most importantly guitars (their own little musical melting pot). What they found and what they bring to an audience is a wholly different and unique approach to that good ol' American end-state of rocking the fuck out. No limits. No boundaries. No genre of music is safe.
There was this girl five rows in front of us with blonde stringy hair, she was shaking and rocking so hard I thought her head was going to spin off. I've only seen cathode-ray black and white permutations of things as drastic and spastic as this: it was '64 and they were the Beatles. But who am I kidding. We were all under the same spell, the place was going shithouse-rat crazy and well, it ain't evil, baby if ya,...
It's been more than a day now, I need to hatch a plan. I need to somehow figure out how this bad man from California is going to get to Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve. Talk about potential.
1. "Evil Urges"
2. "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt.1"
3. "Off The Record"
5. "I'm Amazed"
6. "The Way That He Sings"
7. "Two Halves"
8. "Thank You Too!"
9. "Sec Walkin"
10. "I Will Sing You Songs"
11. "What A Wonderful Man"
13. "Lay Low"
14. "Phone Went West"
18. "Smokin From Shootin"
19. "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt.2"
21. "Wordless Chorus"
22. "Highly Suspicious"
23. "Run Thru"
24. "One Big Holiday"