Sunday, May 24, 2009

the dears @ the echoplex

I am not a Dears scholar. Quite the opposite actually -- the only Dears album currently in my possession was lent to me by a fellow Would-be Hipster en-route to last night's show1 at the Echoplex. Granted, I'm pretty sure I could have listened to their entire catalog and not been prepared for what was to come. Seeing The Dears live is one heck of an introduction.

From the moment lead-singer Murry Lightburn started his slow, intimidating stroll from the back of the Echoplex to the stage during opener "Saviour," crowds parting as though in the presence of a messianic indie-rock figure, the night was set to be grand. And it just kept getting better and better. Stomping through each song with a frenetic focus of a big-tent revivalist, the band maintained an almost Radiohead-like level of intensity. Often, the comparison could be taken even further as Lightburn's rich baritone stretched into a Thom Yorke-like falsetto. With ghostly backing-vocals provided by Lightburn's wife and band-mate Natalia Yanchak over a bed of intensely layered sound (the saxophone might have been sampled, but the band was clearly working their butts off), it was hard not to feel a little overwhelmed. Clearly I've got a lot of listening to do...

Of course, it all comes down to a charismatic leader. When doesn't it? Watching Lightburn preform is a mesmerizing study in contrasts. The dower stage persona gives way to a genuine thankfulness that people are listening at all. A line screamed directly into the face of a fan is accompanied by a hug and a high five. It's tough to peg where he's coming from or where he'll be next, making the performance both unusual and highly compelling. All I'm saying is that when you can unironically use a keytar without audience backlash and/or open mockery, you're in a class of elite performers.

Taking the stage earlier in the evening was Los Angeles-based band Eulogies. Although somberly named, their rocking warm sound is just the sort of thing you soundtrack you envision accompanying your night out with friends. A strong strong start to the evening and a good sign of things to come.

And of course, there was also WBH favorite, Great Northern, playing their first hometown show since the release of their new album -- an album filled with the sort of anthemic, soaring songs that where meant to be seen live. I suggest you do so immediately.

1. Sponsored by WBH's favorite magazine, Under the Radar. Really, who doesn't love a show that comes with free reading material?

(photo The Dears: Liam Maloney)
(photo Great Northern: David Studarus)

mp3: "Who Are You Defenders of the Universe" by The Dears
mp3: "Half Mast" by The Dears
mp3: "Houses" by Great Northern
mp3: "One Man" by Eulogies


Miss Ramona said...

Isn't there something kind of refreshing about an indie rocker assuming the guise of the messiah? After all these years of, "we're just normal guys here for the music in our plaid shirts," I just can't get over my glee at the egomaniacal gravitas of an entrance from the back through the crowd. It's like Kanye goes Echo Park, you know?

LMS said...

I think you nailed it exactly.