Live Review: Cursive; Virgasound, Local H tonight

Category: Blog — @ 5:54 pm November 6, 2005

It’s my assessment that the whole Cursive storyline — opening for The Cure, The Hiatus, The Return — couldn’t have been more ingeniously calculated by our friends at Saddle Creek. Cut the band off whilst it prepares to break through whatever invisible force field the protects the different layers of public acceptance, leave the masses wondering if the band has breathed its last, leave them yearning for more. Then a little more than a year later, seemingly out of nowhere, pluck them from the ashes reborn as a lean, mean four-piece, casting aside the glitter and glow to reveal muscle and bone. The New Cursive is a Jeet Kune-Do version, stressing power in efficiency, building strength through simplicity. Applying this new philosophy to recordings and the road, their fans, who have wept in their dormancy, will have new heroes to celebrate. And all will once again be well in Cursive land.

I mentioned this theory to the label chief last night, how he couldn’t have marketed the band any better if he tried, and he just laughed. He didn’t laugh, however, when I told him that the next Cursive album will be King Kong-sized, as will the subsequent tour. Cursive is slowly evolving from being just another indie band with principles to folk heroes on par with Fugazi. I mentioned that to Matt Maginn last week, and he quickly denied it. “We try to walk the fine line, we try to make good decisions, but we don’t make decisions based on whether it follows a DIY or independent ethic or rule,” he said. “We follow our own ethic. I love Fugazi. We don’t take ourselves seriously enough to be in their league.”

Fair enough. But the hiatus did prove that Cursive isn’t in it for the cash (though the cash can’t be bad). Whether they want it or not, people are identifying with this band for than its music.

But I digress…

Cursive brought their A-game last night, dipping deep into the catalog for what was an inspired set. I was told by three or four people that it was a night-and-day difference from their Friday night show, when Kasher and the band seemed more stressed and disconnected with the audience. Halfway through the set, Kasher inasmuch admitted it, saying that the band was too anxious Friday night having tried to relearn so many different songs. There was no anxiety in the house last night as the band eagerly rifled through a huge set list that included what I assume was a number of new songs that sounded altogether different than their usual fare. The new music is more muscular, angular and less interested in providing hum-able melodies. The songs don’t seem angry as much as intense, and while there’s an inherent dissonance to the new stuff, there’s also something undeniably, well, funky about it, specifically in the rhythm section. Who knows how much of what I heard will ever make it to the studio. If it does, look out.

The only thing I can whine about was the all-Cindy-Lauper encore — “Time After Time” would have been enough of an ironic statement. “True Colors,” OK, cute. You can stop now. “She Bop,” however, pushed the envelope a little too far, and maybe that was the intention. I didn’t hear a lot of complaints when they left the stage for the last time. Nobody wanted to hear “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” Cursive-style.

Tonight it’s Local H doing what’s been billed as their “all request” tour. I have no idea what that’s all about. I do admit to liking their last studio release, Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? Opening is Virgasound (formerly known as The Philharmonic) and that alone is worth the $12 ticket. Unfortunately I’ll be too busy tonight writing a feature on Spoon and a column on Shelter Belt to go. Goddamn deadlines.

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