After releasing two albums simultaneously in October 2013 and touring them extensively, Kevin Devine spent last year releasing a bimonthly singles series, Devinyl Splits, in which he released a series of six split singles with artists such as Meredith Graves from Perfect Pussy, Matthew Caws from Nada Surf, and Jesse Lacey from Brand New. When that series ended fans waited anxiously to see what Devine would come up with next. The answer came this fall with the release of Instigator, his ninth studio album. Devine, with his group The Goddamn Band, began an extensive US tour at the beginning of November with the first stop in Baltimore at the Baltimore Soundstage.
Devine has long drawn up and coming musicians from the indie rock scene to himself, and the stacked lineup of openers for this tour was no exception. Memphis, TN singer-songwriter Julien Baker, Montclair, NJ indie rockers Pinegrove, and Scranton, PA indie rockers Petal all have their own followings and could (and often do) headline their own shows. Together they made for a diverse, almost festival-like show.
Devine opened his set playing solo, with a rendition of the title track from his 2009 album Brother’s Blood. He was then joined by his bandmates – for this tour, brothers Andy Prince on bass and Matt Prince on drums, opening the first band set with “Off-Screen” from 2011’s Between the Concrete and Clouds and “Bloodhound” from 2013’s Bubblegum. From there the band turned to several songs from Instigator – the title track, “Magic Magnet,” and “No Why.” A few more songs, including “No Time Flat” from 2005’s Split the Country, Split the Street, and the Prince brothers left the stage for Devine to play solo again.
Devine’s choice for a solo track was particularly appropriate for Baltimore, as “Freddie Gray Blues” was written regarding an incident in the city last year in which a black man, Freddie Gray, died in Baltimore police custody. Never one to shy away from the overtly political, Devine sang his protest song against the problem of police brutality and the white privilege which allows many to ignore it. Hearing the song in the city where the incident that incited it occurred made it feel all the more poignant.
Devine played one more solo song, “Carnival” from Brother’s Blood, before being rejoined by the band. The second full-band set was similar to the first in that the band started with several older tracks – in this case, including “Just Stay” from 2006’s Put Your Ghost to Rest, “I Could Be With Anyone” from Brother’s Blood, and “Little Bulldozer” from Bulldozer – before several more new songs, including “Daydrunk” and “No History.” The band closed out their set with “Cotton Crush” from Split the Country, Split the Street, and then Devine ended the show with one last solo song, “I Was Alive Back Then,” the closing track of the new album.