Brand New | 10.21.07

 

PHOTOS: Todd Owyoung, www.ishootshows.com. To see more, click here to visit the "Flicks" page.

Dimly lit in yellow throughout the show, the band practically looked like they were performing in a cave. When the lights weren’t dim they were blasting from behind, leaving the band, for all intents and purposes, completely anonymous onstage.

 

 

w/ Thrice and mewithoutYou

The Pageant, St. Louis

 

Concert lighting is typically an invisible art, at its best when the audience doesn’t even notice it. Create too much of a light show and it can distract the crowd from paying attention to the music; go too far in the other direction, however, and they may get distracted from lack of interest. Fortunately, 9 times out of 10, bands keep it simple, using lighting to stir things up just enough to hold the attention of people who already paid their money and are primed to be entertained. This night, however, was not one of those nights.

 

Philadelphia-based openers mewithoutYou brought their Christian-themed indie rock to life in a series of slow-burning songs. Dimly lit in dark, almost blood red lighting, only drummer Richard Mozzotta ever received the occasional spotlight treatment. Mozzatta’s energetic, near-tribal drumming owned the sonic mix alongside Greg Jehanian’s throbbing bass while the guitars, alternately gently picked or loudly clanging, found their own place within the din. The songs lacked lyrical hooks and tended to sound a little same-y, but mewithoutYou earned a fairly decent crowd response all the same.

 

The audience was much more excited to see Thrice, greeting the band with a wall of shrieks as they burst out of the darkness with "Firebreather," the opening track from their new release The Alchemy Index Vols. 1& 2. The album is split into two discs, Fire and Water (with Earth and Air promised for next year), and the band used the differences between the two mini-LPs to their advantage with an ingenious lighting setup. Rows of LEDs lined the stage’s back wall, burning the stage with reds and oranges during incendiary Fire tracks like "Firebreather" and the epic "Burn the Fleet," then bathing them in blues and greens for the mellower Water tracks like the almost trip-hop "Digital Sea." Thrice has long thrived on the dichotomy between their introspective, emo side and full heavy metal brutality, and the lighting setup for the night helped accentuate this difference and shift audience’s mood . Singer Dustin Kensrue thanked the crowd for letting the band play so many new songs during their hour-long set, though they still made time to play through older tracks like "Stare at the Sun" and the title track from 2003’s The Artist in the Ambulance, and "For Miles" and the set-closing "The Earth Will Shake" from their last release, 2005’s Vheissu.

 

With their new album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, packed with songs that ride on slow tempos, loud-soft dynamics, and singer Jesse Lacey’s poison-dipped lyrics, Brand New made a wise decision in kicking off their set with "Not the Sun," one of the album’s more aggressive tracks. Unfortunately, the song proved oddly limp, and certainly wasn’t helped by a sound mix that left Lacey’s vocals virtually inaudible outside of the song’s fully screamed chorus. The band picked up a bit of momentum with "The Archers Bows Have Broken," getting the crowd (largely packed into the all-ages pit directly in front of the stage) bouncing, but they didn’t truly grab hold until they dipped back to their sophomore effort, 2003’s Deja Entendu, for "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t." The song featured the same loud-soft dynamics that are Brand New’s bread and butter, but with a super-catchy chorus made for singing along and a breakdown featuring just bass and audience handclaps that showed that the band may just have some life in them yet.

 

This development, unfortunately, proved short-lived, and for the most part the remainder of the show was something I never would have expected: boring. Much of the problem can be traced to the setlist, which featured a surprising 10 of The Devil and God‘s 12 tracks. The set needed more dynamics, more emotional highs to compliment the lows, but only Deja Entendu‘s "Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades" goosed the back-half of a set that was relentlessly, almost aggressively down tempo-which works to make an effective, atmospheric whole on album, but when the songs keep coming one after another in a live setting, the result isn’t nearly as pretty. Even worse is the band’s decision to apparently completely disown their debut, 2001’s Your Favorite Weapon, whose pop punk-flavored energy would have been a welcome change of pace. The audience was largely receptive to the new material, but from the response to the few Entendu tracks that cropped up it was clear they were looking for more of a mix of old and new than Brand New was willing to provide.

 

Now, it’s not impossible to make a set heavy on slow songs compelling (witness any Death Cab For Cutie show in recent years), but Brand New was undermined by understated lighting that made things even worse. Dimly lit in yellow throughout the show, the band practically looked like they were performing in a cave. When the lights weren’t dim they were blasting from behind, leaving the band, for all intents and purposes, completely anonymous onstage save Lacey, whose passionate singing couldn’t compensate for the complete lack of visual spark.

 

Ending the main set on a very muted note with "Jesus," the call for an encore was lackluster (especially when one considers the venue was sold out). It should come as little surprise, then, that the encore itself was one of the most underwhelming in recent memory. Opening with two to three minutes of simplistic guitar noodling that eventually led into a repeated two-chord guitar, the crowd began to get restless long before the rest of the band came onstage to attempt to rock through an instrumental that never fully congealed. And on that unsatisfying note, Brand New’s much-anticipated show was put out of its misery. | Jason Green

 

Complete Brand New Setlist

Not the Sun

The Archer’s Bows Have Broken

You Won’t Know

Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t

Jaws Theme Swimming

Luca

Millstone

Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades

Untitled 1

Play Crack the Sky

Handcuffs

Sowing Season

Degausser

Limousine (MS Rebridge)

Jesus

Encore:

Instrumental

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