Chatting with one of the security guys at the Tilly and the Wall show last night, we talked about why they didn’t just have the show at Slowdown — a natural size-step up from TWR, where they last played. I figured the reason had something to do with the city’s new all-ages policy, which wouldn’t apply to Sokol. But this guy pointed out that there weren’t that many in the crowd under 18, which reminded me that Tilly has been around for seven years, under-age listeners who followed the band from way back when would be well over 18 years old by now. In the end, the Sokol decision probably was based on crowd-size expectations, and as per usual the promoter (and the band) were right. The draw was around 700, according to the promoter — a nice-sized crowd, but far from the 1,400 needed for a sell out. To help fill the main ballroom, the balcony was closed (though a few people still got up there somehow).
I arrived right at the end of The Ruby Suns and just in time for the painfully loud and distorted between-set “dance music.” I moved as far away from the stage as possible, seeking shelter from the bone-rattling bass-noise. Twenty minutes later, someone threw a hundred or so balloons into the audience. Ten minutes after that, the band went on.
The distorto-bass remained a problem for the first three songs. Hats off to the sound guy for getting things adjusted early in the set. You could argue that the biggest change in the band’s sound is the addition of bass and drums, though it’s really the bass that had the biggest impact last night and not necessarily in a good way. In fact, the whole set got off to a rocky start with a ho-hum version of cuss-fest “Too Excited,” as well as some of the band’s more droll songs featuring Kianna and Neely singing the same melody lines — i.e., no harmonies. What’s the point of that?
They didn’t hit their stride until after a rather flaccid rendition of “Falling Without Knowing” that sounded like the girls were singing the chorus an octave lower than on the recording, sucking the life out of one of my favorite songs on the new CD. Things got rolling after that, though. I continue to be convinced that Tilly’s future lies in the style of dance music heard on their single, “Beat Control,” which got the crowd dancing (sort of). The remainder of the set was the best I’ve ever heard Tilly perform, and included “Dust Me Off,” “Jumbler,” the acoustic ballad “Tall Tall Grass” and B52’s-flavored single “Pot Kettle Black.”
Staging wise, Tilly has added computer-controlled spots to the usual confetti, balloons and smoke. At the center of it all, of course, is Jamie Pressnall standing like a ballerina atop a three-foot-high tap-dance box. With her gittering wrist bands, it’s impossible to ignore her throughout the set. She is the stage centerpiece, even though Tilly clearly has begun to step away from its reliance on tap to provide rhythm.
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A very brief look at the weekend:
Tonight Team Love performing artist Mars Black has a CD release show at Sokol Underground. Guests include Surreal the MC, Articulate and Richie Daggers. $7, 7 p.m.
Tomorrow night Shiver Shiver has its CD release show at Slowdown Jr. with Tim Wildsmith and Brent Crampton. The SS disc, Soulless Sex Appeal, reminds me of a cross between Todd Rundgren and Squeeze — it’s smooth, well produced keyboard-driven rock. I’ve seen SS twice live and neither time did their sound resemble what’s heard on their recordings. Could the Slowdown stage make the CD come to life? Find out tomorrow. $10 w/CD; $5 otherwise. 9 p.m.
Also Saturday night, Big Al is back at the Saddle Creek Bar for a return engagement that also includes The Filter Kings, The Upsets and Dylan Davis. $5, 9 p.m.
And Sunday, The Bodeans return to Omaha, this time to Slowdown. With Ha Ha Tonka, $17, 9 p.m.
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