What a line-up! How could you miss a show like this? How could a show like this suck? Well…
Ok, it didn’t suck, but it was a disappointment. The first disappointment was that the place was full of kids. And I don’t mean 18-21 kids. I mean pre-highschool kids dressed to look like they’re 18-21 or something. There were so many kids that they closed the good bar (with good microbrews on tap) and relegated those of us over 21 to the bar upstairs in the balcony where they only had bottled macrobrews. It was so crowded below, I stayed in the balcony. The sound was good, and the energy on the floor left something to be desired.
Pele started off the show. For those who don’t know of them (and that includes just about everyone at the show), they are a three-piece instrumental rock band. The drummer obviously is the focus of the band, with some unusual rhythms and time changes. And the guitarist plays mostly notes, which don’t sound quite so crisp and clear in concert as they do recorded. When he played the power chords, however, he sounded great. A few of the songs were obviously too long and rather repetitious, needing only one thing: vocals. I mean, if you’re going to play instrumentals, make them original and unique, not regular songs without vocals. But some songs were amazing and rocked hard. So all in all, they were good.
The crowd kept shouting for them to sing. The guitarist (all three had mics for some reason) looked out and said, dead-pan, “You can’t hear us? Hey, can ya turn the mics up?” At least they were good sports.
Next was Burning Airlines, the band of former Jawbox frontman and legendary producer J. Robbins. I’ve seen this band four times now, and every show they just get better. They are so amazingly tight (as opposed to the first show by them I saw, the band’s first show at all, in which they basically stunk), and it’s obvious the band is having fun. J. Robbins (who, by the way, dresses like Johnny Cash – all black, all the time, apparently) rocks hard, bouncing around the stage, screaming into the mic, playing that guitar so hard. Burning Airlines played most of their album and several new songs that were only an improvement. They threw in an old punk cover (not sure by who, but it was familiar) and an instrumental. Great show. They also played forever, shortening The Promise Ring’s set.
When the P-Ring finally showed up, it was obvious they were who the crowd came to see. The band kicked it off with the first two songs off their new album, “Very Emergency” (see review this week), prompting me to fear they were going to play the album straight through. I have to admit, “Emergency! Emergency!” is amazingly catchy, even by Promise Ring standards. The band played almost exclusively from “Very Emergency” and “Nothing Feels Good.” Their one older song, however, was my favorite. When the first notes of “Picture Postcard” lofted from Davey von Bohlen’s guitar, the crowd went wild. And they played that song so well, it pretty much made the show worthwhile.
Other song requests were not honored. The band kept to their setlist, despite the number of shouted song titles. Davey usually responded to those shouts with “Yeah, that song rocks!” or “Yeah, we like that one too.” Probably the one old song that the band should have played, “Everywhere in Denver,” the band didn’t. What a shame. The home crowd would have loved it.
I’ve heard stories about the Promise Ring live, how they used to just have so much energy, flying around the stage, screaming, getting the crowd riled up. Unfortunately, this must be a different band. Davey was the only band member to really move more than a little, and he just sorta danced around a little while he sang. The whole band was very restrained, almost as if they didn’t want to be there. Maybe the high altitude was getting to them. There wasn’t even much talk to the crowd. Somewhat disappointing.
The band finished with their slower, more emo “Things Just Getting Good,” which makes sense, since he names the band members. And they left with no encore. Another disappointment. All in all, the band played well, and their songs were catchy and fun. The sound was good, but there was no energy, very few crowd favorites, and no working the crowd. Not the best show I’ve seen, especially since Burning Airlines was the best band there.