From a backlog of concert recaps:
Delta Spirit deserves the gushing. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched those boys from California climb onto the stage, and I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been blown away by another raucous live show.
Rolling into DC9 on that pre-Snowmaggedon Wednesday night, there were questions.
1. Changing Times.The boys lost Sean and replaced him (at least for the time being) with David Quon of We Barbarians (I think I’ve got the name right, but it was a long night and I may be wrong). I was interested to see how the shape of the sound and the synergy of the group would respond to this change in lineup.
2. History From Below. The whole purpose of this tour is to promote the new album, and when it comes to following such a stellar debut as “Ode to Sunshine,” it’s anything but an easy act. There’s an urgency seeping into each stanza of every song on that album, and I wasn’t sure if Matthew could unleash another collection of as inspired verses.
So, I made my way to DC9 a bit early. It was Wednesday, another issue of the paper had been laid to press and I was craving a G&T. Delta rolled in, gear was unloaded, and hugs were given. Novelty. By the time I made it upstairs with Jon, Dave was in the corner, guitar in his lap and i could hear the tinny tones of “Give Me Some Motivation” seeping out. Nerd moment maybe, but Delta never played “Motivation” live, absolutely never. But with a new guitarist comes new flexibility.
There’s something I love about watching soundcheck. On one hand, the more music the better and I’ll rarely complain about hearing one more song from a band I love. But at the same time, you get this private show giving the band the freedom to admit when they screw up. Take “Motivation.” It’s more rollick than roots, giving Delta this Strokes-ian (yes, the comparison isn’t inspired) feel that’s pure seduction and sizzle. On this night though, trying to blow the dust off the song and the band, Delta struggled to nail the intro. Matt’s flubbing words on the intro, Brandon can’t feel the beat, and it takes five times through before they finally grudgingly agree to leave it in the set.
Of course they kill it when the crowd’s there, but for a few short minutes, you get to watch band practice.
It’s hard to emphasize how good Dave is. Looking like the ill-conceived love child of a missing Cold War Kid and Orlando Bloom, Dave controlls the guitar with a barely contained spastic fury. He’s bouncing around the stage, bumping into Matt, before going off on these tight, tight guitar solos. Sean’s an incredible guitarist and its dissapointing not having him around, but Dave kicks up the energy. I’m voting for him to stick around.
When Jon and I went downstairs after soundcheck to go grab a coffee and Scotland, I was blown away. The entire floor of DC9 was filled and there were people waiting in the streets to get into the show. It’s a long way since that floor in Chicago and I’m still realizing what some great songs and a spot on Gossip Girl can do for you.
About those songs:
1. Bushwick Blues is the future. I’ve been listening to this song for awhile, but the final incarnation of the first single on “History From Below” is stellar. It’s a song for the dance floor and a ballad for the bedroom. Matt’s tale of a broken heart and a late night on the L receives a tearful and angry heartbeat as the band reins in the music for the verses, then unleashes fury for the interludes. Anger and loss, screams and whispers go hand in hand and this song deserves some big ears.
2. Ransom Man is the surprise. Brandon and Kelly are quick to say that this is some of the darkest and best writing that Matt’s ever done, and this song stands out on the new album. Think Ryan Adams meets Explosions in the Sky, and see if you’re not holding your breath when Matt moans, “I just want to hear Dixie, from a funeral band.”
3. Scarecrow is the terror. Delta didn’t play this song live, but Kelly let me listen to it for a bit after the show. Recorded outside, Matt moans his way through a chilling and sad story of lost love. “I was in Scotland/You were still with him.”
4. 9/11 is the unknown. I’m not sold on this song yet. Matt owes a strong debt to people’s historian Howard Zinn, I know that, but the lines and construction comes off a little clumsy live. Maybe it was the night or the creaks, but it didn’t catch and hold together quite as well.
Obviously that’s not the whole album, but it’s a start. Delta sounded great and loud live. The room was packed, the crowd was sweating and the everyone was singing. All the old songs still ring true, the new ones have fire, and Delta seemed happy to be on the road again. It was a night spent with old friends, but old friends who are rapidly accumulating new fans. Scotland was laughing at the X-marked youngsters at the show, but that’s the crowd that Delta needs if they’re going to keep growing.
I know it’s an old chorus, but I’ll keep singing it, Delta Spirit is the best young band in America. They pull from the best parts of history and mix it with all the anger and passion of right now. They know what it’s like to be young and in love, young and in heartbreak and young and completely penniless. They’re a band for those carrying the pink slip and those packing off to Afghanistan. They’re a wakeup call to sanity and a return to everything that’s right about life.
Or at least rock ‘n roll.
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