"Whenever I see a band shortly after an album comes out, I hope it's too soon for them to play new songs live," a friend yelled to me as Cursive tore into the opening hooks of "This House Alive," the first track from its seventh album, I Am Gemini, which was released last week.
My friend isn't the only one who expressed those sentiments. At the Zia Records in-store performance before the show, frontman Tim Kasher said the new songs are hard to play in an acoustic setting. A fan all too eagerly suggested that the group play old songs, so they did, going through their catalog "chronologically" from Domestica to I Am Gemini. Kasher claimed the band was going to exclusively play songs for Zia in an attempt to persuade fans to go to the Crescent show, but "Retreat!" and "The Cat and the Mouse" ended up finding their way onto the full set.
I Am Gemini has been getting mixed reviews, and indeed, it rides the "twins" theme pretty heavy. Trust me, you'd get real drunk real fast if you played the I Am Gemini drinking game and took a shot every time Kasher said "Gemini" or "twin."
At the same time, the album is ridiculously catchy. What's the right balance of new and old songs to put in a set? Apparently the magic number is six, as long as they are said catchy songs and they are offset by five tracks from The Ugly Organ. Yeah, five.
Cursive has rightfully caught on to the fact that its fans will go absolutely nuts to any song the band recorded before 2003. Songs like "A Gentleman Caller" and "Art is Hard" stirred the somewhat stagnant crowd into singing/screaming along instead of politely bobbing along to most of the Gemini tracks.
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"You guys are mellow," said Kasher. "Is it a Monday night thing?" Sure, the crowd didn't get as wild as it could have, but it really wasn't a bad turn out for a Monday night. I'm not sure if it was sold out, but it was pretty crowded. Kasher complimented the Crescent Ballroom, "You've got a nice little place here. It's like you've finally grown up."
Then the conversation got weird.
He complimented Ume, the opening act (which did put on a good show), and referred to himself as an "old rocker fart" that needs to be rolled on stage on a dolly. He went on a brief tangent analogizing his career to a turd he took when he was 16 years old that he maintains by pouring water on it and putting it in the microwave. Some awkward laughs ensued and he said he didn't know where he was going with that, so the band played "The Martyr."
Ted Stevens was right, the keyboards really help Cursive cover a range of sounds, even if some songs didn't quite sound like their recorded versions. Nothing can quite replace a cello, but the band filled the gaps pretty well for the most part, except for "The Recluse."
I knew a few people that really enjoyed the song, but I wasn't a fan. Played a slower tempo, the song dragged. I don't know if there was something wrong with the mix -- a friend suggested that I was standing too close to the stage, so it didn't sound right-- but most of what I heard was drums and vocals and not nearly enough guitar. My inner The Ugly Organ nerd was surfacing again, so it was hard to completely get into it because the song was so subdued. Not that it was bad; Kasher's acoustic version at his solo show a couple years ago sounded great.
The band played a staggeringly well balanced five song encore that included "Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?" a track from the band's 2001 Burst and Bloom EP. The show probably should have ended after the nice sing along during "From The Hips," but instead concluded with "Eulogy For No Name."
This House Alive Big Bang AGentleman Caller The Cat and Mouse Retreat! A Red So Deep The Sun and Moon Sierra We're Going to Hell The Martyr Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton I Couldn't Love You The Recluse Wowowow Art is Hard
Encore: Dorothy at Forty Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me? Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand From the Hips Eulogy For No Name
Last Night: Cursive at Crescent Ballroom.
Personal Bias: I'm usually pretty mellow at shows. Cursive is one of the few bands that I get really into live.
Overheard in the Crowd: "This show reminded me of home" -- girl wearing an Omaha shirt.
Random Notebook Dump: The premature "SKELETON" shouted during "Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton" that may have ruined the song for me, because each repetition of "skeleton" from Kasher made me laugh harder and harder.
Video from most of the Zia in-store:
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