Monday, November 23, 2009

TVD Live | Langhorne Slim, The Rock and Roll Hotel, 11/17/09

Langhorne Slim and I have an interesting history. I first discovered him (him being Sean Scolnik) a couple years back and I enjoyed the folksy upbeatedness of the songs and singer Scolnik's interesting voice. Half a year after I started listening to the band, I was driving with a friend of mine and had Slim's self-titled album playing. My friend turned to me and suggested that if I enjoyed what was playing on the radio I should check out Langhorne Slim. After informing him that it was Langhorne Slim's new album my friend proceeded to tell me how he went to SUNY Purchase and his friend Lucas and Langhorne made some whacky music (one song he played me was all about water) together. Long story short, I always figured that if the few people I've met who knew Scolnik were awesome, then he must be too. And after seeing him in concert there definitely is a strong and honest connection between his on-stage persona and the first-hand accounts I've heard about him.

Now, I said I've always liked the music. Have I ever loved it to the point of screaming out the lyrics at his show? No. But I've enjoyed it. So, I was slightly anticipating Langhorne Slim's newest album, Be Set Free, which came out a month and a half ago. His first album came out 5 years ago and while his two LPs definitely exhibited a slowly evolving style, they weren't so different that I expected (not optimistically nor pessimistically, just expectantly) this latest one to be too far off par. While I've read reviews that have called it "cohesive work" this and praising it for its straightforward simplicity. I call bullshit, friends. It's just too simple. Too sappy. And frankly, too slow for my liking. Perhaps the only song on the album I actually enjoy is the piano-heavy call-and-response "Cinderella." I also rather like "Back to the Wild" as the kind of song you'd use as an accompaniment to a film's train-riding montage and "For a Little While" because it embodies that type of sound (a-la-Jeff Buckley) that makes me want to make out with someone for a few hours. I can't say I love, or even really like, the rest of the album. It feels as though he is going through the motions, trying to continue on with a sound that he began playing around with years ago.

I last saw Slim at Iota this spring. There was a pretty good sized crowd compared to other shows I'd seen at the venue, so I expected there to be a large number in attendance at his show at Rock & Roll Hotel this past Tuesday. In fact, the entire downstairs was packed to the exit with concertgoers. My boyfriend and I arrived for the Dawes in the last few songs of their set. I knew nothing about them going in and, although they clearly had a strong following at the show, their music wasn't really for me. At the last Langhorne Slim show there was no drummer- something was mentioned about how he was sick or hurt and wouldn't be playing, which for one lucky fan who got to accompany a few songs was probably a dream come true. On Tuesday there was not only a drummer but a pianist/banjoist and an upright bassist. Despite having just released an album, a good portion of the set list featured music from previous albums, which I was more than grateful for. I probably zoned out for any of the songs off of the new album, except for when they played "Cinderella," "For a Little While," "Blown Your Mind," and "Land of Dreams." The latter song I don't like and after reading a review comparing its lyrics to a Hallmark card, I like it even less.

Say what you will about Langhorne's music, but you can't really knock his stage presence. He and his band interact beautifully together and it's really refreshing to see everyone on stage clearly enjoying themselves. They played some of the more vigorous songs like "Honey Pie" and "Hello Sunshine" and "And If It's True" along with some other crowd pleasers like "Rebel Side of Heaven" and "Colette." It wasn't a bad show, and Scolnik really knows how to engage his audience (note- to the guy who shouted most of the lyrics and then during an interval where Scolnik was talking shouted "TESTIFYYYYY"- please, shut up. No matter how many times you apologize for screaming into the ears of the girl next to you, that doesn't give you carte blanche to continue doing so for the rest of the show, especially when it's things that make everyone around you feel completely awkward.).

All in all it was a pretty decent show, and if you've never seen Langhorne Slim in concert, you should the next time he rolls through before he gets picked up to play in a bigger venue and ticket prices double. As for me, I think I'll be setting my Tuesday night free.

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