Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Long Winters: Live in Graz

The Long Winters are coming to Hoboken/NYC this weekend. (I'll be at the Maxwell's show on Friday night if you want to say hi.) So Moni would be remiss not to provide Records I Buy with another fine review, as all bands seem to head for the tri-state area after conquering Austria. Click the photo below for the Flickr set.

The Long Winters@Veilchen, Graz. March 3, 2007Band: The Long Winters
Date: 03/03/07
Venue: Veilchen, Graz, Austria
Rating: 4.5/5

I made the two-hour trip to see The Long Winters in Graz. The Veilchen is a cosy little venue (capacity maybe 200) in a huge park in the city. The show started late (maybe twenty minutes before midnight), and the place was almost packed with mostly not-too-drunk people. It always adds to the quality of a show when there is chemistry between the band and the audience, which was certainly the case that night.

When a friend of mine recently saw The Long Winters in Paris (opening for Keane), he said he it had seemed to him singer/songwriter/guitarist John Roderick was "under the influence". To which another friend said "Oh no, John's just naturally high." In Graz, at the last show of the band's Euro spring tour, John Roderick's natural highness peaked. The man’s got charisma he should sell in bottles and also delivers some great banter along with the music. And tonight John was in a particularly playful mood.

After opening with a semi-acoustic It’ll be a Breeze, the energy of the set rose and remained at peak level throughout — as opposed to their last show in Vienna in November, where for some reason things just didn’t quite take off. My personal favourite was Sky Is Open, a song they just added to their setlist on this tour. John introduced Honest, a song about falling in love with a rock singer, by stating that it was totally okay to be in love with him, but not “the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. Or Robert Plant. Don’t do that.” I’ve seen Nora performed a few times, but this one crushed pretty much any other version I’ve heard so far, with John going nucking futs during his solo. Setlist staple Cinnamon got the whole crowd singing and dancing.

The Commander Thinks Aloud has gone from “we only play it when we feel like it” to a regular in their live repertoire, which is a very good thing. I just secretly wish they would leave the synth-bits off the live version. I once saw the song performed by Roderick, accompanied by the members of the fabulous Centro-Matic, who joined him on stage. If I would normally use grand words like “visceral” or “poignant”, that’s what I would say to describe this performance. The simple instrumentation carried the feeling of the song better than all the synth stuff. Generally one can say though that the band tries to recreate many of the arrangements, sounds and flibbity-jibbity from their albums, but thankfully without sounding too much like the recorded versions of the songs.

When John said, in reference to the Turkish-Austrian wars, that, "I like the Turks. They’re nice people. Unless of course they come slicing your head of. Well nobody likes that", a voice from the back of the room stated matter-of-factly, "I like it." A touch of Monty Python was in the air. Then John went on to introduce the band, claiming that global warming was all Eric Corson's (bass) fault (“You hippie!”), and partially Jonathan Rothman's (keys, guitars, kazoo). But certainly not Nabil Ayers' (drums, moustache).

Theoretically I could complain there were too few songs from the first record played — there were the lovely Scent of Lime and a sexy Carparts, but that song has never been the same since Sean Nelson left the band — but after all, I could have requested them. The Long Winters honor almost all requests, sometimes even those for a Van Halen cover (Hot for Teacher!), and they even might give you a vandalized version of Stairway to Heaven if you ask for it one too many times.

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