As Tall as Lions | 10.23.09

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live_atal002_sm.jpgIf the crowd wasn't here early to see As Tall as Lions, they were surely hooked.

   

The Pageant, St. Louis

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I'm a big As Tall as Lions fan. Huge. I own everything they've put out and see them every chance I get. Which, until this year, wasn't all that often. I first caught them at CMJ in 2007, and had to sit through Coheed and Cambria as a result. (If that isn't devotion, I don't know what is.) At SXSW this year, I got lucky and caught them twice—the second time on my birthday, my gift to myself—and then this fall, on the heels of releasing You Can't Take It With You (an album truly near perfection...but then, are any of their other releases any different?)—they've hit St. Louis twice, as openers for Dredg and now Mute Math.

All that is to say I pretty much know what As Tall as Lions will bring to the stage—and I'm impressed every single time.

live_atal007_250.jpgTonight, ruby-throated vocalist Dan Nigro took the stage alone and began singing "Lost My Mind" through a highly echo-y mic. It struck me as a risky—and confident—move, considering they were the opening band, not who most of the 750-plus crowd (still filing in) had come to see. After the first stanza, the rest of the band took the stage and the orchestra began. A four-piece on record, As Tall as Lions swells to six on stage; so many sounds, it's truly magical and all-encompassing.

Following a beautiful rendition of "Stab City," the lead track to their self-titled CD, if the crowd wasn't here early to see As Tall as Lions, they were surely hooked. "Go Easy (See the Love)" began with a jam bathed in red light. Six guys, one wall of sound: lovely. Nigro delivered lots of vocal adornment; the crowd clapped as the music fell away and he sang; truly, the man sings like an angel.

Three men on drums introduced "Circles." That's another thing about a Lions show; nearly everyone on stage plays more than one instrument. The added percussion here is especially nice. After this song, bassist Julio Tavarez welcomed Nigro back to the show; apparently he'd been sick and missed the last two shows. I felt a rush of gratitude then; thank god he was back tonight. (And holy hell...what kind of band can still put on a solid show without its lead singer? As Tall as Lions, that's who.) I began to listen closely to Nigro's voice. Amazing. Flawless. You couldn't tell he'd been sick.

Following "Breakers"—which included trumpets and a lovely falsetto from Tavarez—was "Ghost of York," easily the fans' favorite song (or so said Nigro when I interviewed him earlier this year). The two-way harmonies really stood out here. "We've Been Waitin'" offered yet another instrumental freakout, while "In Case of Rapture" saw the band bidding farewell on yet another high note.

My only complaint? It wasn't a headlining set. Some day I'll get to see more than eight songs from this remarkable band; with the way they're winning fans over night after night, it shouldn't be too long. | Laura Hamlett

Set list
Lost My Mind/Stab City
Stab City (See the Love)
Circles
Sixes and Sevens
Breakers
Ghost of York
We've Been Waitin'
In Case of Rapture

Photos by Jim Dunn

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