Live Reviews: Rilo Kiley, Cursive; Okkervil River tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:43 pm September 14, 2007

A crowd of around 1,000 were on hand last night at Sokol Aud to see Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley. I went into the concert having heard nary of a note of their new record, which I was told sucks by everyone I ran into last night. Strangely, for a tour that’s supposed to be supporting the new material, the band played very little of it. Instead, they busted out their war chest of old chestnuts going all the way back to Take-Offs and Landings and including a retooling of a Jenny Lewis solo number (an unfortunate trip-hop version of “Rise Up with Fists!!”).

It was impossible to miss the new songs thanks to a number of cues that prefaced the material — introductions that seemed more like warnings (or apologies), use of glaring floor-mounted strobe lights and the requisite, massive bass and boom-chuck percussion. As soon as a new song was over, off went the strobes, and it was back to business as usual (i.e., back to normal). Again, I haven’t heard their new record, but I’ve read that it’s a sort-of tribute to dance/disco pop. My take: If you’re going to roll with something like that, do it all the way. Shut off the stage lights completely when the strobes are on, turn the auditorium into a dance club. Don’t play three old songs and then drop in a new one, then go back to the old stuff. Do 30 to 45 minutes of straight-out hot dance music, then let the crowd cool down with the old stuff. As they presented it, the new music came off half-hearted, tentative, unsure.

Based on all the trash talk, I expected the new material to be really lame, but it wasn’t that awful. The band is reported to have said Tom Tom Club was a big influence on the new album (in fact, the first Tom Tom Club album was the pre-show music). RK’s music, however, had none of the inventiveness or soul that made TTC such a great band. Instead, the new music felt like droll retread of hip-hop-beat music sung by a housewife. Those RK melodies were still there hidden beneath the massive thump-thump-thump that, if anything, got in the way. If this was supposed to be dance music, the crowd wasn’t buying it. They mostly stood and stared instead of moved and grooved. That’s never a good sign. Still, the music wasn’t painful, just disappointingly cliché and, well, boring. It’s no surprise that RK got the best crowd response from their older material, which dominated the set.

Sound and performance-wise, this was the best RK show I’ve seen, though nowhere as good as the Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins Scottish Rite show last year. The band was tight, relaxed, and the crowd was having a good time. That said, I had my fill after about an hour and took off before the encore.

RK wasn’t the only show going on last night. Lazy-i intern Brendan Greene-Walsh drove down to Lincoln to see Cursive the day after seeing the band at Slowdown. Here’s his report:

I don’t go to Lincoln often. Hell, I don’t really go to Lincoln at all, but last night offered a good excuse: Cursive (part 2). The show at Slowdown was great. It was nice to see the band play in that beautiful room with the immaculate sound system. But having the opportunity to see them again the following night, a mere hour away at Knickerbockers, was too much to pass up. The night started on a good note — running into Ted Stevens on the corner before the show, he told me that the band would be playing four new songs during their set (as opposed to only one played in Omaha). Four? Apparently, the band learned eight songs last week that could potentially be on the next album.

Their set started feverishly and kept the momentum all the way through. The band sounded more relaxed and muscular than they had the previous night. The crowd was eager and attentive, which kept the new songs from falling on deaf ears (the second of which is going to be stellar when finished, by the way). Frontman Tim Kasher maintained his between-song antics with a story about his current body odor, something to the effect of “anus sweat” due to “pumping iron.”

All in all, I was able to witness two stellar shows back to back by the best band to come from Omaha. As I drove back to town, I made a few observations: First, Kasher’s voice has never sounded better. One would think that after years of screaming night after night on tour his vocal chords would be shot. Not the case at all. Second, Cursive is a band that thrives in smaller venues. They can sell to capacity at big venues and put on a hell of show doing it, but there is nothing like seeing them in a room that is arm-to-arm, hot as hell and full of energy. And last, the next album (whenever it happens) is going to keep the tradition of being another amazing release. — Brendan Greene-Walsh

Nice.

So what’s in store for tonight? Well, Okkervil River at The Waiting Room, of course, with Damien Jurado. $10, 9 p.m. This is the marquee show of the weekend for me.

As for the rest of the weekend, Saturday, it’s the always volatile (and entertaining) Filter Kings opening for The Mercurys at The Waiting Room. $7, 9 p.m. Over at Slowdown Jr. its Besnard Lakes with Starvin’ Hungry and Baby Walrus (get there early to catch these guys). $10, 9 p.m.

Sunday, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s plays at The Waiting Room with The Family Radio and Sad Sailor. I have it on good authority that this may be the last time you’ll get to see The Family Radio for a long time, as frontman Nik Fackler begins his film project in the coming weeks.

Also Sunday night, at O’Leaver’s, it’s Shiver, Shiver, Sleep Said the Monster, Via Audio and Landing on the Moon. 9:30, $5.

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