Reubens Accomplice, Crescent Ballroom, 8/10/12

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Reubens Accomplice, Jim Adkins, Roar Crescent Ballroom Friday, August 10, 2012

See also: Reubens Accomplice Returns With Sons of Men (Download) See also: Does Reubens Accomplice's I Blame the Scenery Hold Up More Than a Decade Later? See also: The Full Jim Adkins/Roar/Reubens Accomplice Slideshow

It's not like Reubens Accomplice had completely vanished during the eight year stretch between their sprawling The Bull, The Balloon, and the Family in 2004 and the fresh-off-the-presses new record, Sons of Men, but last night couldn't help but feel like "a return" in the grandest sense.

If the term "return" doesn't work -- after all, the band only has a couple additional shows listed on its site -- then let's call it a celebration.

Following a surprise set by Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World (I missed completely on accident), and Roar (which features New Times contributer Chase Kamp), songwriters Chris Corak and Jeff Bufano took the stage, offering up a pensive, quiet start to what would ramp up to the equivalency of fireworks, even if it was only glowing white Christmas lights that decorated the stage.

Drummer John O'Reilly and bassist Ryan Kennedy (sporting a price tag on his bass, perhaps so he could return it to the store later) stepped on stage, and then the guests: Sam Means (known for his band The Format and solo work), Jamal Ruhe (Sleepwalker, One), Patrick Carrie (Limbeck), and the elegant string quartet that sat on stage right.

The band balanced the new with the old, offering up moving selections from The Bull, The Balloon, and The Family, but focused mostly on the excellent new record.

It was a good choice: the songs, direct and punchy, are the kind of songs that you feel like you already know, and the crowd's swooning eyes and singing along speak to the strength of the new collection. It was most folks' first time hearing the songs, and they already loved them.

"Oh, I love this desert/I hate this desert," Corak sang, illustrating the tense balance between sentimentality and sarcasm that defines Reubens' work. Ruhe handled Promise Ring/Maritime vocalist Davey von Bohlen's vocal contributions on "I Love You, but I'm Tired," while Carrie's pedal steel swells added the dusty Americana element that always spruced up the "emo" sounds of Reubens in ways that other like-minded bands never could. Means manned the keyboard, deftly adding subtle touches to songs like "Field Science" and older gem "Leave the City."

Bufano joked that the band was "old and jaded," but the performance never felt that way once. The lilting strings were perfect, adding widescreen drama to "The Losing Curse" and "Sons of Men."

"We weren't sure that 20 people would come," Bufano said, surveying the packed room. The band closed with "All Chorus," promising that it was "really it," and that the setlist was all the band knew. It was a great ending, and a half-hearted attempt to follow it up would have lessened the impact.

That's the ultimate lesson to be taken away from Sons of Men: if you're going to do it, do it right. It may have taken the band eight years to craft the record, but it feels worth it. So here's hoping this a full return, and not just a one night party. If it's the latter, well, at least it was a great one.

Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Reubens Accomplice, Jim Adkins, Roar @ Crescent Ballroom The Crowd: Old-school Phoenix indie fans, members of local acts like Ladylike, Landmine Marathon, Bears of Maintou, Peachcake, singer/songwriter J.D. Stooks, and Source Victoria. Cue the strings: Strings tend to get weepy, overly-sentimental, and cheesy. Not these strings. Wow. I'm Not Sure, But: I think I last saw Reubens Accomplice at the Marquee opening for Ryan Adams. That might have been 2005? Saw 'em with Death Cab for Cutie too: Great show -- though I'm still bummed out about Nada Surf not making that gig at Nita's Hideaway. (The second Nita's? I need more coffee to figure it out.)

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