Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Broken West at Spaceland

I was most anxious to see The Broken West on Friday night (November 7, 2008) playing from their sublime new CD, Now or Heaven, because it's one of my favorite releases of the year.

They were on the bill at Spaceland, sandwiched between Other Lives and Heartless Bastards. It's a real testament to this band's intelligence regarding their career that they spend so much time touring and/or playing shows where they open for popular bands who bring in an expanded fan base.

I arrived part way into Other Lives' set and got caught up in their pretty, orchestral sound. They have a kind of movie soundtrack sensibility and utilize violins, cello, and piano to achieve the sweeping sound. On top of that, the music is beautiful, occasionally almost overwhelmingly so.

Other Lives, from Stillwater, Oklahoma, will be at The Echo with The Little Ones next Friday, Nov. 14 and I think I must go.

Friday night is sometimes so damned odd in the local clubs, you wonder exactly where you are. This was date night at Spaceland and there wasn't a familiar face to be seen, with the exception of The Broken West themselves. I don't run into the heavily scented, text messaging, gym bunny-types often. Is this a Los Angeles phenomenon, or is it everywhere? Is it the Heartless Bastard fan base? I grow concerned.

I decided, better to have this crowd behind me, than be blinded, during the set, by their flashy cell phones, so I settle up front. And there, lo and behold, is Kevin Bronson, who saves the entire evening for me. That, and the set by The Broken West.

I've seen this band five times before and always been impressed, but Friday was best of all. I think their songwriting took a step forward on the latest CD, not that there's anything wrong with I Can't Go On. I'll Go On, but the new material reveals more maturity and gravity.

They performed with their new drummer, Sean McDonald, recently handicapped by a bicycle accident, but insisting on playing one-armed. He was amazing! The whole band was amazing as they played "Gwen, Now and Then", "Auctioneer", the beautiful chiming jangle of "Ambuscade" and "House of Lies", which approaches New Pornograpers territory and quality.

Ross Flournoy singing is sure and steady and the Byrds-like harmonies he achieves with his bass player, Brian Whelan, are pretty stunning, especially on "House of Lies". Brian takes center stage to do lead vocals on one of their very best new songs, "Got It Bad".

They also played "Down In the Valley", one of my favorites from the first CD, which always reminded me of The Turtles. I think they got the attention of most of the audience, though, like I said, I was down front and didn't look back. Kevin and I certainly enjoyed it.

I stayed near the back to see some of Heartless Bastard, and they pleased their fans. Yes, that's who these people were. Apart from the distinctive, hoarse, yet powerful voice of Erika Wennestrom, there was little to distinguish them.

But my mission had been to see The Broken West perform the new stuff, and I was more than satisfied. I was thrilled by it! Even more so, because I got to meet Ross Flournoy and tell him so.


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