The Dismemberment Plan @ Paradise Rock Club 11.2.13

by Ben Stas (Journalism/English), published November 12th 2013

photos by Ben Stas

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Plenty of circular debate is made about the validity of reunion shows by beloved and long-deactivated bands. By most accounts though, The Dismemberment Plan’s 2011 run of shows in support of 90s classic Emergency & I’s vinyl reissue was an example of a reunion done right. The spazzy Washington D.C. rockers played festival and club dates with enough off-the-wall enthusiasm to make it seem like they’d never left. The reunion went so well, in fact, that new songs started coming together. Now, two and a half years later, the D-Plan presents us with a less common scenario: the post-reunion reactivation.

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The Dismemberment Plan Mk II released Uncanney Valley to mixed reviews in October, and embarked on a new North American tour that brought them back to Boston’s Paradise Rock Club not long after. The band’s 2011 Boston show took place in the very same room, and this evening drew a natural comparison to that one. The band was no longer in reunion mode, doling out classic after classic for the night. With a new record to promote and songs that weren’t quite road-tested to play, this show inherently felt like less of an event. It’s difficult to hold that against them though. Recapturing the spark of an extremely successful first reunion is simply a difficult task.

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Thankfully, The Dismemberment Plan as an everyday touring rock band, rather than once-in-a-lifetime reunion heroes, still puts on a damn good show. Following a solid opening set from Brooklyn indie-pop crew Yellow Ostrich, the band started off slow with Uncanney Valley’s understated “Living In Song” before upping the tempo with “Gyroscope” from Emergency & I. Frontman Travis Morrison was all smiles as he led the first mass singalong of the night, and a smile rarely left his face for the rest of the show. Morrison, along with bandmates Joe Easley, Eric Axelson and Jason Caddell, clearly still has a passion for the music and the stage even after a decade-long absence from formal D-Plan activities.

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The group also continues to sound fantastic. Caddell’s wiry guitars and Morrison’s multi-instrumental contributions balanced Axelson and Easley’s headspinningly great rhythm section in a perfect distillation of the band’s melodic and weirdly danceable sound. Even on some of Uncanney Valley’s more instrumentally straightforward songs, which are in turn the most straightforward of the band’s career, Axelson and Easley’s tightly-wound drum and bass interplay was consistently inventive and surprising. Morrison, meanwhile, switched off between stabbing at keys on a sampler with childlike energy, calmly singing from behind a keyboard, dueling with Caddell on guitar or coming completely unhinged sans-instrument.

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The show surely had instances where the less familiar and less immediately engaging new songs slightly derailed the momentum, but those moments wound up feeling few and far between as the night went on. It was the spontaneous, slightly out-of-control events that left the impressions, whether they involved Morrison frantically working the choruses of Lou Reed’s “Vicious” and Lorde’s “Royals” into the same rendition of “OK, Joke’s Over” or a large portion of the audience rushing the stage, in accordance with tradition, during “The Ice of Boston.” The Dismemberment Plan’s chaotic streak, along with its passion and technical prowess, still translates brilliantly to a live show. Even in this post-reunion stage of their career, the band still delivers much of what made fans fall for them in the first place.

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