The Lawrence Arms Las Vegas Country Saloon Friday, May 24
While I'm thrilled at the opportunity to see Devo and FLAG live (at Punk Rock Bowling), The Lawrence Arms are the main reason I'm in Las Vegas right now. The gritty Chicago punk band hasn't performed in Phoenix since a Chaser's show in 2009, around the time Buttsweat and Tears was released. The band has been fairly inactive since then, playing a festival here and there (including Chicago's Riot Fest this year, which features Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan's former band, The Broadways, as well as The Lawrence Arms.)
Driving almost 300 miles to see a band for the first time in four years sets all sorts of expectations. I'd be perfectly content with a four-hour-long Lawrence Arms set, but I knew that wouldn't happen. The band was scheduled for an hour and managed to cram 16 songs into its set, including a few new, unnamed tracks.
Bassist/singer Brendan Kelly pointed out that most of the crowd wasn't actually from Vegas, which I can personally verify. I only met one local in the crowd, everyone else was from the Los Angeles area, San Francisco, Portland, or Canada. Kelly and McCaughan said that it was their first decent Vegas show in a while. Perhaps anticipation had something to do with that.
The setlist represented the newer albums well. I'd say it was a balanced set because I haven't heard the band play Ghost Stories material in quite a while, so I wasn't expecting it. It's interesting how the Cocktails and Dreams songs started out as b-sides, but are now a staple in The Lawrence Arms' set.
Before performing "Hey, What Time is 'Pensacola: Wings of Gold' on Anyway?", Kelly had a random observation about how if Shaquille O'Neil had a small penis, it would still be large by most standards. This was pretty tame stage banter for Kelly, who usually tells all sorts of fun, drunk stories. Before playing the second new song, he claimed to see Jersey Shore's "The Situation" and said he probably has herpes.
The band didn't play an encore, though I suspect it would have happened after "Like a Record Player" as usual if they weren't crunched for time. The last two songs were personal favorites, as I sang and jumped along with everyone else during "100 Resolutions" and enjoyed the call and response of "Are You There Margaret? It's Me, God" and sincerely hoped that the band would come back for another song or two as the Indiana Jones theme song sounded after the band left the stage.
Setlist: Great Lakes, Great Escapes Necrotism: Decanting the Insalubrious (Cyborg Midnight) Part 7 Intransit On With The Show The Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City Them Angels Been Talkin' New Song The Devil's Takin' Names Brick Wall Views Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure Lose Your Illusion 1 Hey, What Time is "Pensacola: Wings of Gold" on Anyway? New Song Like a Record Player 100 Resolutions Are You There Margaret? It's Me, God.
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: The Lawrence Arms at Las Vegas Country Saloon. Personal Bias: I got the timebat as my first tattoo seven years ago. The Crowd: Fond of PBR tallboys, in spite of the $9 cost. Overheard in the Crowd: Lots of love for drummer Neil Hennessy. One More Thing: I wasn't actually planning on reviewing this show, but I had a great time and decided to share my thoughts with the world. My only notes are the setlist.