“Live Review: Califone / Thunderbird Cafe / Pittsburgh, PA / 09.11.2013″

Tim Rutilli is drunk. The first thing he says, after repeating the word “Maybe” three times (“maybe, maybe, maybe”), is that he wants some of us up in the balcony to come down on to the floor. One guy says he wants to stay up, then two guys start to come down, and Tim Rutilli’s like, “Now I don’t want you to,” and he proceeds, saying, “I bet I could beat both of your asses.”
Rutilli takes the banter to an uncomfortable level, and then starts in, after what seems like a football quarter or so, on “Fisherman’s Wife.” Even though it’s one of their best songs, it’s lousy. Then they play a cover, “The Orchids,” and it’s a little more loosey goosey, but the percussion of Ben Massarella, or just his mere presence, seems lacked.
Without a break, Rutilli goes straight into “Michigan Girls,” on which he hems and haws at his axe almost bitterly, but to best effect yet tonight.
Though obviously lacking is the new stuff! In fact, three songs in, no original tune from after 2003 has frothed up from the amps. Quite a surprise for me.
The fourth song too is no exception, but fortunately, they nail the velvet, beautiful “Vampiring Again,” another one of my favorite tracks of all time. Strange how many of my special old goodies they’re playing.
The first new song is “Movie Music Kills Like a Kiss.” Killer! Not just killer! As in like Garth killing the donut man, going, “Reh! Reh! Reh!” Like I said in a prior post, I’m still waiting on my Stitches CD, but basically it’s like if Billie Joe Armstrong played slide guitar after listening to every Neu! album (they actually pumped Neu! during the set break).
Another new song comes, and then a full-on expansive punch of “Electric Fence” ensues. Rutilli has switched to keyboard, toys bringin’ the noise. Jim Becker, I believe, covers guitar soloing for a psychedelic oozer.
The titled track from the new album seems to get the warmest reception. To me, it seems that Rutilli should have had more faith in the new stuff right from the start. The steady percussion is perfectly in keeping with today, more so, in a live environment, to be communally enjoyed, than their more pastoral pre-9/11 work.
Slide guitar is added to “Funeral Singers” to sterile but monumentous effect. Percussive jammiling guitar solo treads in then on some later new stuff.
My foremost thought at the show’s end is that not only did they play “Vampiring Again,” but they also played two new songs that each rip off at very least the guitar rhythm from the pristine Quicksand/Cradlesnakes track. And so the new stuff is very guitar-heavy after all, leaving room, maybe, in the future, for some further keyboard trickery, the stuff which definitely brought the house down on a couple songs in the middle of the set, particularly “Electric Fence.”
[1] Unfortunately, I was late getting there, so I missed the Richard Buckner set.

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