Friday, March 2, 2007
Midlake @ the Casbah, 3-1-07
Midlake hit the Casbah stage last night packing four keyboards, at least six guitars, mics for all five members, a makeshift screen for slides and video — and one papier mache panther head.
After the first sunny day in a week in San Diego, they used every inch of the stage to impressively re-create the rainy-day moodiness of their breakthrough sophomore album, "The Trials of Van Occupanther."
Often, when a band is touring on the strength of a single album, the show suffers from lulls in between the best-known songs. And with Midlake's sound, they could have easily lost the electricity of the album and been left with just a mellow bore. But they kept the show compelling by breaking it into three parts.
With the Occupanther watching over the crowd (see photo below), they opened with two of the album's standout tracks: the synth-heavy "We Gathered in Spring," and an energetic version of their indie hit, "Roscoe," with all five members singing the chorus.
After a couple more album favorites, including a lush take of "Bandits," the band members switched places and played two songs off their lesser-known first record and a new song that frontman Tim Smith said the band was working on when they got the chance, which wasn't very often. Nonetheless, it already sounded more like a "Panther" B-side than a rough, unfinished new track.
They then switched back and used "Panther" songs to build the tension to a finale of a riveting "Young Bride" and the closer, "Head Home."
Then they did exactly what they should have — they DIDN'T play an encore. Even if they went back up there and played "Roscoe" again, played it even better, it would have taken away from the main set.
Encores have become so cliched these days; bands obviously holds back songs, write out the encore on the set list and stand just off-stage while the crowd claps, everyone knowing that it's all a game. It was extremely refreshing to see a band put together a solid set that gave the crowd everything it wanted but still left them wanting more.
As Smith introduced "Head Home," he thanked the crowd and said it was the band's first time in San Diego. It's a pretty good bet that, next time they come through town, they'll be playing a bigger venue.
Midlake — Roscoe (MP3) (Highly Rec.)
Midlake — Van Occupanther (MP3)