B&E | 04.27.07

They're just five guys who feel the music that they're driven to create and perform.


Schlafly Tap Room, St. Louis

Maybe last month's sold-out Hold Steady show garnered more attention than tonight's B&E appearance, but the sentiment was the same. Brendan (the B of the equation, so named when there were just two members) embodies Craig Finn so well, you're sure it's neither an aping nor an act, but rather just the way he is. Dressed in a white t-shirt airbrushed with a gray cat face and the words "Peaches, Never forget, 1984-2002," he opened the set with a skyward gesture and a dedication.

The show was far from perfect. The sound was muddy in the cathedral-like back room, a factor which probably didn't even contribute to B's muffled between-song banter or nearly unintelligible lyrics.

They played two covers in a row, early, one of them—the Hold Steady's "Your Hood Rat Friend"—in defiance to my unwritten rules of cover songs (nothing too current, and especially not by a band you already sound like).

But the raucous, rock-fueled guitar riffs and duels, combined with a solid and energetic rhythm section (oh! the drums), went a long way in earning both my forgiveness and the crowd's admiration.

I can also overlook the fact that B shout-talks more than he actually sings. Because these five guys aren't trying to be rock stars. They're not preening and posing, not wielding an axe or lifting a mic as a means of seduction or position.

They're just five guys—obviously talented guys, despite tonight's lacking acoustics—who feel the music that they're driven to create and perform.

And with all of his pacing and his gesturing and his everyman imperfections (I could do that, everyone in the audience was surely thinking; I could grab a mic and speak my mind), B was the perfect anti-hero, completely lacking in self-aggrandizement: an utterly captivating frontman.

Watching B&E, you wouldn't be at all surprised to hear they'd landed a record deal next week. Nor would you blink an eye if they went back to the day jobs and put the instruments on the shelf.

Anything is possible, they seem to be saying. Look at us.

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