Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Apr 6th 2010 10:00AM by Justin Jacobs
It wasn't entirely surprising that in a small-market city like Pittsburgh, Girls only managed to fill about one-third of the midsized Mr. Smalls Theater. It seems with all the hype, many music lovers simply feel burnt out on Girls before the band had time to develop.
Said lovers missed out on an immense show Monday night, when Girls played a mostly-'Album'-based set with a newfound shine. The songs were crisp and bright; still raw, honest and direct, but without any of the sloppy meandering that critics bashed last fall.
Now that doesn't mean frontman Christopher Owens has suddenly become some Springsteen-level showman. In fact, he's far from it. Owens said less than a dozen words the entire show. But his sensitive-guy-searching-for-redemption persona has developed from wide-eyed, lost-soul mode to reluctant, but comfortable front man of a very, very good rock band.
Album's lead track 'Lust for Life' was blindingly bright and better than on record, all punchy power pop with sunny harmonies and raggedy, urgent guitar strumming. Elegiac 'Laura' got a facelift -- on 'Album,' the song is a heartbroken plea but live it was awash in the humid haze of late summer, with woozier guitars and Owens' voice sounding more desperate-but-hopeful than ever.
That amplification was Girls' most common tactic in the show. Most songs were played brighter and tighter than on 'Album,' with volume and fuzzy atmospherics that belonged to the stage. When the five-piece band cranked up the speed, volume and melancholy on tracks like the stunning 'Hellhole Ratrace,' the sound was so aurally clean, emotionally muddy and damned loud that the whole thing almost hurt.
'Ratrace,' the most touching 'Album' song (Sample lyric: "I don't wanna cry my whole life through. I wanna do some laughing too") began stretched slow and eventually exploded into an ear-damaging wall of jagged guitar sounds that swallowed Owens' sweet, plaintive vocals, creating a musical representation of his emotional-wandering tendency. When the song ended, there were just as many people asking when their hearing would return as were standing awestruck at how a pretty song about the fear of death got their hearts racing and ears throbbing.
The song eventually shifted into the dreamy, guitar-raging 'Morning Light,' which Girls played like a psychedelic metal band intent to turn your brain to mush.
The club's sound was impeccably clean, and for a band known for ragged, warbling guitar pop, the crisp mix was especially important. In a smaller club, Girls' slight details -- a beachy guitar lick, a slight melody change -- might have gotten lost amidst the fog.
So are Girls getting drastically better, or was the show a product of great soundboarding? When the music sounds this sunny, catchy and warm, who cares?