The last time I saw ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, at Trees in '02 or '03, I went home with a pair of drumsticks hurled in the midst of the night's show-stopping instrument destruction ritual. Last night, though, there was no such display of aggression. I don't know how I feel about that. I guess now that Conrad Keely and Jason Reece are in their mid-thirties they've worked out most of the anger that fuels such outbursts, or else learned to internalize it.
So, with no damages to report, the night was all about the music, with a welcome emphasis on songs from the excellent new comeback album The Century of Self. The band opened with the new CD's first two songs, the instrumental buildup "Giants Causeway" into "Far Pavilions," which features Jason Reece shouting along behind singer Conrad Keely. This set the tone for the night; his raw energy was mostly relegated to the background, but still managed to shine through even though he spent much of the night behind a drum kit, pounding out tribal rhythms on floor toms face-to-face with drummer Aaron Ford. The two-drummer set-up accentuated the propulsive beats that give so much vitality to Century.
But the momentum slowed a bit as some kind of technical difficulty stalled the show when Reece switched to guitar for the fourth song of the night. Keely apologized for the delay as the rest of the band vamped on the intro to Century slow jam "Bells of Creation." It was understandable, as the Dallas date was the first of the tour.
The kinks were worked out by the time members of opening act Midnight Masses joined Trail onstage for gang vocals on an epic version of "Fields of Coal," a highlight of Century. "This is our first time to do this song live," Conrad Keely informed us. "You saw it first!"
Then it was back to basics with Reece taking a turn behind the mic to shout out the aggressive "Homage," the first song of the night from the band's 2002 masterpiece Source Tags & Codes. Such was the pattern of the night, a mix of songs from all periods in the band's career, but with an emphasis on Century and Source Tags.
The audience was surprisingly small, with plenty of room on the floor even with the balcony closed off. Almost as surprising was the brevity of the set, just over an hour after an extended set-up time following Funeral Party. Trail went on a few minutes past 11 p.m., but the night ended at 12:15 or so nonetheless. That's Granada's niche, I guess, rock shows that end at a reasonable hour. The audience has to get to work the next day. You don't want to keep them out too late. But if anyone left unsatisfied, it didn't show on the smiling faces leaving the theater.
Personal Bias: I've always thought the band should let Reece sing more. If anything, Trail could use more of his raw punk-rock aggression. Last night could have used a couple more of his songs.
Random Note: All three bands featured additional percussion to supplement the drummers.
By The Way: Funeral Party, which played the middle set, turned out to be a generic dance-punk act fronted by a little dude in a leather jacket striking rock poses. The most memorable moment of the band's set was when the keyboards/cowbell player accidentally knocked his little Korg synthesizer off its stand. I missed most of Midnight Masses, which features Trail's Jason Reece, but the one song I heard sounded great -- mellow, melodic, gospel-tinged rock with vocal harmonies.