Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Live Review: Kevin Devine at UAlbany 4/27

The mood was set, after some fooling around with the lights from the previous band, and the 60 person strong crowd at the Campus Center Ballroom at the University of Albany swarmed the front of the stage as Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band appeared to be ready to go. Front man Kevin Devine, if it wasn’t already obvious, welcomed the rush to the stage, waving them in closer. Sure, this was going to be an intimate show, but that doesn’t mean the band wasn’t ready to burst the crowd’s collective eardrum.

But they started it off slow, nursing everyone into what would become a sonic explosion with the opening song “She Stayed As Steam,” off of the EP Devine released last year, quickly reminding everyone in the crowd that it would not be a solo set. (I mean, come on. There was a full band setup!)

Devine was there to please everyone. It’s just in his nature. He played songs from his entire catalogue, which is six full lengths, some EPs and several 7”s, giving the crowd at least a taste of what they came to hear. He even started taking requests at the end of the show to make sure he covered all of his bases and everyone was attentive and tuned in to what the underground wordsmith had to say.

This was my first time seeing him hold the coveted headliner’s position and it was clearly something he took full advantage of as he played for nearly an hour and a half, overjoyed as he bounced around the stage, which was impressive, because the man was plagued by a cold. He still was able to tear through the hard rocking and socially conscious “Time to Burn (Another Bag of Bones)” and sound swelling “Cotton Crush.”

And the other musicians weren’t just simply there as a backing band. They sometimes took the spotlight as guitarist Mike Strandberg showed off fiery solos on songs like the explosive “Buried by the Buzz.” Brian Bonz also made himself known by not just the guy who was rocking the keys and the Mac laptop, but also as quite the beatboxer. After Devine introduced his goddamn band, Bonz tried getting the crowd going by asking them to make some noise before he started laying down the beat for “I Could Be With Anyone,” the single off of 2009’s Brother’s Blood.

It fit right in with the carefree attitude of the entire show as the crowd knocked around small beach balls, sometimes landing up onstage only for Devine to accidently kick directly at a person in the crowd. He did get a kill, though, after serving a ball into the crowd without any return volley. That is also because he missed the crowd entirely. Chalk one up for the Devine, I guess. There was also a surprising cover, as Devine began playing the opening of Metallica’s classic “Enter Sandman,” a song which the entire band actually followed suit as he attempted to sing the first verse and chorus. Then, oddly enough, Strandberg began playing the riff from Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My way,” perfectly melding the two songs together.

UAlbany was also treated to several new songs off the just finished, but still being tinkered with, full length Between the Concrete and the Clouds, which will be released by either late August or early September. The title track features an ominous aura only because it is set in a minor key, but it has the sound of a great next step from the stellar release that was Brother’s Blood.

The highlight of the night came with the brazen barnburner “Brother’s Blood.” It comes at the end of the set for a reason; it is his strongest song to date. And it shows in the performance as Devine seems to give his all, wildly jerking his body, hunched over his guitar and banging his head. The song builds to the point of where Devine’s voice comes to a shrill. In person, this display of raw emotion is all the more captivating.

Expecting that to be the final song, the rest of the band walked off the stage. But Devine remained, and accommodated the previous requests of “Tapdancer.” And the intimate show became a little more personal with complete silence from the crowd. Devine’s delicate voice washed over the room as most sang quietly to themselves as not to be heard over the performer. After a rendition of “Brooklyn Boy,” he closed the show with the vulnerable “Ballgame” off of 2003’s Make the Clocks Move, and hopefully satisfying those that were expecting a solo set.

Opening the show were Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned and Lights Resolve. Unfortunately, I missed Sgt. Dunbar, but Lights Resolve was certainly an entertaining group to watch. Lead singer Matthew Reich was quite the showman, commanding the stage with a certain swagger and even wiping his sweat on whoever was at the front of the stage. At one point, he even left the stage, walking around the room, throwing beach balls at people and attempting to steal a woman’s Blackberry. Each song started off intriguing, giving you something you’ve never heard, but then unfortunately slipping into unoriginal and generic rock music. Still, they did a pretty great cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole.”

The show was put on by UAlbany’s radio station WCDB and was wonderfully organized by General Manager Nicole Dellarocca. So, congrats to you guys for putting on an amazing show because there need to be more headlining shows with artists like Kevin Devine.

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