Kevin Devine @ Brighton Music Hall 11.24.13
by Jackie Swisshelm (Journalism), published December 9th 2013
They say it’s the windchill that will kill you—but freezing fans were unfazed by the coldest weather of the season thus far as they stood outside the doors of Brighton Music Hall on Sunday, November 24th. Doors opened shortly after 7:30, and the venue was filled to its 476 person capacity with those eager to warm up to some live music.
First to take the stage was Harrison Hudson, a singer/songwriter/guitarist backed by a band that was incessantly proud to hail from Nashville. The band also prided itself on their back-to-the-50’s sound, although their music played live sounded more like catchy indie-rock, similar to Vampire Weekend or Ra Ra Riot with deeper vocals and heavier drumming. Lyrics-wise, the all-male band was typical, jaded and slightly predatory, singing songs about the frustrations of being turned on and off by a girl—a total turn off for Harrison Hudson, who is actually a bandmate in Devine’s Goddamn Band. With little-to-no breaks between songs, Hudson appeared more than prepared to play, but not quite fun. At the end of their set, Kevin Devine and other dudes from the Goddamn Band joined Harrison Hudson onstage to sing their final song, in an awkwardly ironic homo-erotic croon.
Minneapolis trio Now, Now was next in the lineup, playing a set that drastically changed the night’s atmosphere. Opener “Lucie, Too,” from their most recent album Threads, hushed the crowd with electric and vocal harmonies from vocalists/guitarists Jess Abbott and Cacie Dalger. While their setlist featured mostly songs from 2012’s Threads, “Neighbors,” from their 2010 album of the same name, was a pleasant surprise for some of the noticeably dedicated fans in the crowd.
But it was everyone in the audience that seemed somewhat mesmerized by Now Now’s performance; if not by the short, tragic, sleepy stories in each song, then by drummer Brad Hale’s pure sense of rhythm. He was controlled, clever, complicated, and the true backbone of the band’s pop-punk ambiance. Their recorded sound translates well to their live performance when given a proper venue like Brighton. The sound quality enabled the band to evoke a certain essential vibe, if you will, that strings together every song on Threads both conceptually and lyrically. Their music, especially live, sounds organic and honest, and their most recent efforts really showcase it. Although not very talkative on stage, comments and smirks between bandmates evidenced that these three have been making music together for six years now. They were familiar, comfortable and definitely ready to be taken seriously as a main act, rather than an opener.
After creeping on stage during Now, Now’s final song, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band soon took over in a classic, self-indulgent rock star fashion. George Washington’s melted face loomed in the background, advertising one of their new albums, Bubblegum, which was produced by Brand New’s Jesse Lacey. Devine did not hesitate in opening with 2005 throwback “Cotton Crush” for the last audience on his fall tour. The band followed up with “Nobel Prize,” a tune from their other new record, Bulldozer, but the audience didn’t seem to mind the constant shift between material. With eight records under his belt, fans surely didn’t expect Devine and his Goddamn Band to stick one particular album, or sound for that matter. The crowd had as much enthusiasm for pop-punk songs about love lost as they did for harder, more politically charged ones.
After all the spastic onstage dancing was through, however, the band revived the audience with an unexpected encore performance alongside openers Now, Now and Harrison Hudson. The mashup sang an over-the-top medley of nostalgic hits, including “Sweet Child of Mine,” Counting Crows’ “Round Here,” “Enter Sandman,” “Ignition Remix,” “Stir It Up,” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and “Stan.” Devine topped off the night by emptying the stage of everything but himself and an acoustic guitar. Softly, he sang a melodic new tune called “Little Bulldozer,” and ended the show with an obvious crowd favorite, “Ballgame.” Devine might have been standing solo on stage, but nearly everyone at Brighton was singing in unison by the end of the night.