Tiger Army @ Marquee Theatre | 10/28/12
Tiger Army frontman Nick 13 promised something special when we spoke to him last week ahead of last night's Halloween celebration, Octoberflame V.
That could have meant a number of things in hindsight: outrageous outfits, an elaborate stage set up, pyrotechnics, and any number of other antics. Instead the vaunted psychobilly pioneers left the tricks at home and treated fans to an energized set as they took their holiday concert series outside of California for the first time in its five year history, and brought the twang to Tempe's Marquee Theatre.
The band took to Facebook just before the show saying, "The set list for tonight was constructed while looking at the one from our last visit to Tempe in July 2011 - many different songs." With that vocalist/guitarist 13, standup bassist Geoff Kresge and drummer James Meza didn't waste any time setting the tone for the night. Kresge opened up with the first haunting notes of the instrumental intro to their 1999 self-titled debut and the trio quickly ripped into "Nocturnal." From there on it was a blitz of fan-favorite classics and deep cuts, rattled off back-to-back-to-back.
"We haven't played this one in a while," 13 says before slowing down the pace for the ballad, "Through the Darkness." The crowd lit up right away and started the first of many sing-a-longs. They followed up with "Jungle Cat," ramping the energy back up with thudding dgda-dgda-dgda rhythms. (I think that's an apt verbal recreation of Kresge's upright bass slaps.) The night followed course after that with the band pulling back the reins every so often on songs like, "Rose in the Devil's Garden" and "Pain," and then picking back up with tracks like, "Trance."
Nick 13 wailed away, Kresge mugged during songs and lugged around his upright around the stage effortlessly while Meza's drumming came off cleaner than his high and tight haircut.
Other fan-favorites included, "Cupid's Victim," "F.T.W," and the dancing grooves of "Forever Fades Away" off of the group's most recent album, Music From Regions Beyond. Just before the hour mark of their set, the lights dimmed and they exited the stage before a four-song encore that included, "Santa Carla Twilight," "Power of Moonlight," "Never Die," and "Sea of Fire."
I was surprised to see a few empty pockets scattered throughout the rockabilly-garbed crowd but that could be attributed to the band's relative absence recently. In the last five years they've released only one album and last night's appearance marked just the second time they've hit Arizona in as many years - but that hasn't been because of a lack of love for the Valley. Throughout the set 13 and company praised our corner of the Southwest, and thanked concertgoers often.
As promised it was a special night for the spooky at heart. One full of passion, heartache and hope.
Personal Bias: I don't have any Tiger Army tattoos, but I have friends that do.
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The Crowd: Plenty of polka dots, cuffed-up jeans and lots of three flowers pomade.
Overheard: Psychobilly's just run its course, but don't worry, it'll be back . . . in 20 years.