in performance: silversun pickups/manchester orchestra/cage the elephant

silversun pickups

silversun pickups

For the first band, it was homecoming of sorts. For the second, it was something akin to a metal-esque exorcism. For the third, it was a cheery though somewhat stifling way of saying hello.

That was the breakdown at Buster’s last night, as Monday played out with three popular indie bands, all of which were making Lexington debuts. We say indie here more as matter of reference. The new albums by Cage the Elephant, Manchester Orchestra and Silversun Pickups have all received a serious major label push. Still, all three bands possessed an immediacy far removed from corporate rock convention.

cage the elephant.

cage the elephant.

First up was Bowling Green’s Cage the Elephant, a feisty punk-pop band with a wiry lead singer named Matt Schultz that moaned, shouted and half-spoke his way through such retro-charged tunes as Back Against the Wall, Free Love and In One Ear. A taste of early ‘60s Stones surfaced here, a blast of Iggy Pop countered there. While there was a welcome punkish thud to Schultz’s singing, much of the 45 minute set seemed more accepting of pop inspiration than Cage the Elephant’s recent self-titled debut album. Plus, it was a blast to watch Schultz concede his delight in being “home” before stage diving into the crowd.

manchester orchestra

manchester orchestra

Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra followed with a set full of more insular intensity than the evening’s other acts. Songs like Shake It Out and I’ve Got Friends also possessed a spiritual fire ignited by the high, tense tone of Andy Hull’s vocals, chunky guitar passages that bowed deeply to metal and a hardened percussive drive. But the set closing The Only One (performed as a trio piece with Hull, bassist Jonathan Conley and keyboardist/percussionist Chris Freeman) pinned a more human urgency upon such confessions. It was an intriguing though somewhat oppressive performance. Where Cage the Elephant presented its music as a sort of participatory brawl, Manchester Orchestra seemed remote. The members plowed through the set without saying a word to the crowd, waved goodbye and were gone.

Rounding out the evening was Los Angeles’ Silversun Pickups and a set of more pop-conscious material with a modest early ‘80s, post-New Wave feel in places. The quartet certainly knows well the way around a melodic hook. Perhaps too well. Once songs like Sort Of found a solid beat, they never let go. Add in the fact that Brian Aubert’s singing and rudimentary rhythm guitar phrasings were buried in a mix that oddly favored bass and drums and you had a performance that tended to drag.

But there were still fun surprises, like the set-opening Growing Old is Getting Old, which started out sounding like a sort of lo-fi Roxy Music before drummer Joe Lester set the tune up with a more streamlined groove

The evening also ran like clockwork. With set changes coming in well under the half hour mark, all three bands had their say and still got the crowd home by midnight. All Mondays should move along that briskly and efficiently.



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