LIVE MUSIC: Bowerbirds @ The Black Cat - 3/21/12

There’s a point you reach in every relationship you have with a band where you’re not quite sure if you are ready to commit. You like them a lot...maybe even A LOT a lot...but there’s still something that keeps you from feeling that they are just the right fit.

As a duo, Philip Moore and Beth Tacular have built their career on writing smart, emotionally evocative songs that play with the boundaries of what a folk song should or could be. On their latest album, The Clearing they certainly attempted to “fatten up” a little the instrumentation used, it definitely suffers from a seemingly unintentional sparseness of sound that can happen when so few people are working on a record resort to using the tools at hand rather than utilizing the freedom that, say, a full band might offer. And make no mistake - The Clearing is a fantastic record. It just wasn’t until seeing the songs performed live with a full band that it ever really clicked for me. And oh what a performance.

Bowerbirds Philip Moore and Beth TacularWatching the interaction between real life duo Moore and Beth Tacular, it was immediately clear how much their relationship informs the music that they make together. In any good band there’s a sub-conscious communication going on between its members, and here that back and forth, that innate sense of timing is ingrained deep into the bands performance. As Phillip Moore’s peerless tenor pulled the expanded Bowerbirds lineup along - they are now a five piece for touring purposes - tracks from their latest album sprung to vivid life as if to suggest that here on the stage was where they really belonged. Songs like “This Year”, “Now We Hurry On” and the show closing “Overcome With Light” seemed to take on a humanity of their own, with the highlight being the The Clearing’s opening track and lead single, “Tuck The Darkness In.”

I scoffed at a review I had read comparing Bowerbirds music to the grandiosity of The Arcade Fire’s anthemic missives, but as Bowerbirds tore into “Darkness” it was as if there were suddenly 10 times the number of people in the band - a veritable army of Bowerbirds. The sound that the five members of this touring band were able to achieve was so big that it’s hard to believe it was contained by the dull black walls of The Black Cat. As that song came to a close with the entire band singing like some angelic backwoods chorus, that was it: I was sold.

And to be fair, I was sold right from the beginning.  It was clear from the start that underneath it all Bowerbirds simply have a deep love of music in general, and that may be what makes them so damn good and so damn special. As Moore was warming up, he wasn’t just noodling along to the opening music - Television’s 1977 classic Marquee Moon - he was actually playing along guitarist Richard Lloyd’s parts. Television - a band whose sound is a thousand miles away from the music of the Bowerbirds - but here was their guitarist tearing it up like he were about to hit the stage at CBGB’s. It’s that charge, that electricity that makes good music GREAT.

So that's it. After one show I'm ready to settle down. Ready to have the long term relationship. Enough of this "hanging out" crap, let's jump straight to the 2 kids and a Volvo. What do I have to do Bowerbirds? Poke you on Facebook or something? That's not creepy is it? IS IT?

Oh crap...it is, isn't it. 

Bowerbirds are on tour NOW. Make it a point to get out to see them. You’ll be glad you did.

Click on the image above to see the rest of our shots from the show

 

SETLIST

This Year   
In the Yard  
Chimes    
Stitch the Hem  
Walk the Furrows
Death Wish          
Brave World         
Now We Hurry On     
Northern Lights     
House of Diamonds  
Hush     
Tuck the Darkness In  
Encore:
Hooves   
In Our Talons  
Overcome With Light