Tuesday, August 21, 2007

slint performing "spiderland," glasgow, 8/20/07

from the start of david pajo's bewitching riff in "breadcrumb trail," it is instantly obvious that spiderland is no ordinary album - that's why i went to go see slint perform it last night in glasgow. i'd never before been to a don't look back concert, and i had never really thought about how odd it would be; after all, even when you see a band with only an EP, they don't play the songs in order - a live show deliberately disrupts the order and regularity of an album, injecting a new sense of vitality into songs heard a thousand times through headphones. but the point of don't look back is to consciously reject the traditional live concert, an idea that i didn't even consider before going to this show. as a result, it was weird, mostly because slint isn't a band anymore - all they play is this album, basically. as isn't even forty minutes long, slint tacked on some extra songs at the end, giving us a little more punch for our pounds, but fundamentally, slint only exists now as a vehicle for spiderland's live performance.

spiderland did feel like a performance more than a concert - the difference being attending a classical recitation or watching the holy steady shred in front of you. slint played their opus (which they themselves must be sick to death of) with detached perfection, delivering a show that was in no way different than the album's i've listened to so many times (i took two movies, of "don, aman," and "washer," and their lengths are less than ten seconds different than the studio versions). for me, the show was confusing at first - why did the album, which has produced such admiration and emotion in me, suddenly feel so dead? then i realized it was because slint themselves were dead - not literally, of course, but basically in every other sense. these songs which they had written, riddled with seething angst (however reserved), these songs were not played by the band that had written them, but by a band that performed them as an homage. ironically (yet still sadly), slint only came alive, and only for a brief moment, during "good morning captain," spiderland's final track. in fact, i don't believe anyone but vocalist brian mcmahan actually opened their mouths during the show, except for drummer britt walford's guest turn at vocals for "don, aman." the crowd was most appreciative, clapping and whooping at every song, as if they were surprised by what the next one would be, but one clearly got the sense that slint would have played exactly the same whether there were 400 or 4 people at the show. granted, slint's music doesn't necessarily lend itself to much more than restraint, but the extent to which slint went to to ensure the audience knew it was a performance, not a concert, was rather disheartening.

the stage setup was more than a little odd, with mcmahan's mic set almost entirely on stage right, so that he would have been just a profile to anyone in front of him - fortunately, i set up directly in front of paho, so i was able to see the whole band. walford and pajo sat opposite each other in the center of the stage for "don, aman," a nice effect, but one that didn't see to have any discernible purpose. abc's lights were terribly bland, and nearly the entire set was blue and pink, only changing colors very late in the set.

i was a little worried about the length of the show, considering spiderland clocks in at less than forty minutes, but slint tacked on a few songs at the end, namely "glenn" and "rhoda" from their 1994 self-titled ep, and a new song called "king's approach," in which pajo's work with early man is an almost overpowering influence. a long (and very heavy) instrumental jam, "king's approach" really did not communicate any part of the slint aesthetic, and really sounded as if it would be more appropriate at a metal show. because "king's approach" is a new song, rumors have abounded about a reunited slint releasing an album, but there didn't seem to be any serious chemistry between any of its members - they looked pained to even be on the same stage as the others, which must be why there was so much physical distance between them onstage.

all in all, seeing spiderland made me sad. i feel bad for slint, performing the same songs each night in the same order, songs that they wrote sixteen years ago when they were different people in a different place. yet this spiderland tour has none of the excitement of an ordinary "greatest hits" show, just a cold, dead emptiness. yes, the music was superb, but we knew that; what i paid for was a chance to see slint. what i saw was a shell of them, and that is a shame.

"don, aman"


"washer"


14 comments:

David said...

Amazing Gig....totally unbeleivable how good they are. Just wondering,you didnt happen to take a picture of that setlist at the gig did you?

bentrup said...

yeah, right at the front after the show.

David said...

then it was mine then :D

bentrup said...

sweet. just wondering, how'd you come across my blog? have you been reading for a while, or just saw the video on youtube, or what?

David said...

yeah, I was looking to see if anyone else had posted Slint video's from Monday night and the saw the blog on your profile. I have to say, I really like it aswell...your writing is very sharp and you obviously put a lot of yourself into what you write =]

bentrup said...

thanks. i took a video of "washer" as well, but i'm having a difficult time putting it on youtube, as it's too big, but i'm hoping to figure out a way to shrink it without cutting it. also, if you're interested, i'm heading to connect in a couple weekends and will be reporting from there, so stay tuned! (and thanks for reading.)

David said...

Sounds awesome...I'll stick a link to here on my blog if you'd like :D

bentrup said...

yeah, definitely. what's yours?

David said...

on my profile :D

gabbagabbahey said...

hey, bentrup, found your blog via david's. Your take on the Slint gig is interesting, though I would be a lot more positive about it personally... probably too positive (see my own review of Slint a couple of days earlier in Dublin at http://hardcorefornerds.blogspot.com/2007/08/slint-live-tripod-dublin.html).

Although I've only being listening to Slint for a relatively short time, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. If you though it was 'cold and dead', consider perhaps that that's the way Slint are... I read all about 90's US emo bands which played with their backs to the stage, etc. And Slint was an archetypal post-rock band, with a quiet, detached style... you would really expect a bit of distance from them at a show. That said, in Dublin they seemed to be enjoying themselves too, saying little yet making the odd mumbled 'thank you' to the audience. Brian McMahan, standing stage right as you note, just seemed totally casual, but not, in my opinion, jaded...

Anyway, good review, and keep up the good writing!

Cheers, Gabba

blend77 said...

interesting to read your review of the show. well written by the way as Gabba had mentioned.

I wonder if i would have felt the same, having loved the record for so long now, or if i would have just been excited to hear the songs in their loud, un-produced glory.

i will not know for the time being, as i have flubbed every attempt to see them

as for the washer video, try DailyMotion.com... they allow bigger videos... it should work well... cant wait to see that video...

bentrup said...

hey blend - thanks for the tip. i hope you guys enjoy "washer."

David said...

great video :D...the idiot with the camera in front at about 1.10 is me!

Ryan said...

Its funny that you mention how sad this concert kept making you. I think the original depression in which they recorded Spiderland has left for a new sort of depression in which they performed it... Both, to me, are valid.

This album has always been very alienating to me, in a good way? And it is interesting to see how they seem to have become very uncomfortable with each other...

Anyways, thanks a lot for this post. Awesome.