The The are one of my favorite bands ever. I relate to Matt
Johnson's self-critical lyricism, and the fact that he layers
those lyrics over great tunes doesn't hurt. Their second full-length
release, Soul Mining was one of the two CD's i
bought when i first got a CD player. I say all of this so that
you realize i might be a little biased.
Matt Johnson is the only permanent member of The The, and the
band has metamorphized many times in its career, from the keyboard-y
pop of Soul Mining to the 80's dance stylings
of Infected to the Modern Rock/Pop of Dusk
to the guitar-driven urbanized blues of Naked Self,
the current outing and impetus for this tour. In all honesty
the heavy guitars of the new album took some getting used to,
but again Johnson's self-critical lyrics kept me entertained.
I have decided, after much internal wrangling, that i LIKE the
album. However, since the band had changed so much it was with
a slight degree of trepidation that i approached this show.
How would it sound live?
Anyway, i couldn't stay away -- both morbid curiousity and
my overwhelming love of The The forced me to the show.
The open act was Athens GA based post-hippy/world music ensemble,
Macha. I have seen them several times. The first time their
odd melodies surprised me, and i liked the band. Everytime since
then they have seemed hollow and pretentious -- they make music
in strange ways as if to say "Hey, aren't we cool! Just look
at us experiment!" (This is how i feel of the entire "Elephant
6" genre, with which Macha are loosely associated. But don't
get me started on that!) Anyway, this time they did not seem
pretentious at all. In fact, they sounded GOOD. Why? Well, basically
they were mixed poorly -- the drums were overmiked and pretty
much overpowered all of the other instrumentation. Which, i
now realize, is how they should sound! More drums, less funky
keyboards and hammered dulcimer, please. Anyway, i found myself
liking Macha again. We'll see how long it lasts this time.....
But Macha were just filler as i waited.
The current incarnation of The The is as a four-piece. Matt
Johnson on guitars and vocals. A guy playing five-string bass
and doing backing vocals. Some american guy on lead guitar (i
only know he was American because at one point he and Matt bantered,
and guitar-boy did NOT have a British accent...) And there was
some hard-working Rasta dude on drums and keyboards. (That Rasta
guy really held the show together. Kudos to him!) This lineup
is the lineup of a Guitar Rawk Band, and that is what The The
have become. The main set showcased mostly songs off of Naked
Self to great effect. Matt did a fine job of putting
this band together, and the slow, forceful guitarwork really
came across well live.
But it was the encore that made my life worth living for the
next few months! The band left the stage after the main set,
and the usual cheering, stomping, and clapping occurred. Then
Matt came out alone with his guitar and played True Happiness
This Way Lies, the crowd bellowing to the call-and-response
of the lyrics. Then the rest of the band quietly took the stage
and they launched into a slow, achingly beautiful rendition
of Uncertain Smile. It was perfect, and i wish that Mr.
Johnson would record that version of the song so that i could
listen to it again and again at my liesure. Next up was a slower,
rocking version of Infected, and again the song worked
remarkably well in its new incarnation. The show ended with
a powerful and loud version of Love Is Stronger Than Death.
This song does not make my Top 10 Favorite The The Songs despite
being their biggest hit in the USA. Nonetheless, it was the
perfect end to the evening, as the crowd reacted very strongly
to its familiar melody.
Honestly, i do not know how the show could have been more enjoyable!
Excellent work. I only wish he would play in my vicinity again,
with less than the 7 years between this concert and the previous
one! But, i shall wait....