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Last Night: Mission of Burma, Ume and Tre Orsi at the Granada Theater

Mission of Burma, Ume and Tre Orsi
Granada Theater
July 24, 2011

Better than: watching the new episode of Breaking Bad, because you can't DVR a live concert.

The Granada Theater was barely half-full for Mission of Burma's 30-years-later return to Dallas, but the band played liked the place was filled to the brim.

For the ones willing to stay up late on a Sunday for this, it was an 80-minute thank you.

With the rippling opening notes of "Secrets" starting things off at 9:50, the band was at full throttle for the entire night. As Bob Weston manned the mixing board, throwing in tape loops and manipulations here and there, Roger Miller, Clint Conley and Peter Prescott lived up to the lofty reputation many rock critics placed on them in the '80s.

Debuting material from their forthcoming record while also playing songs from all of their albums, including their debut EP, Signals, Calls, and Marches, the band never came across as a nostalgia act. This was definitely not a situation where the band remained stuck on material from their debut while humoring the audience with a couple of new songs.

Whether it was "Spider's Web" or "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate," the quality stayed high over all of their 19 performed songs.

The band has always had this element where things could collapse at any point in the song. For example? Prescott's drum fills during the verses of "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," where hits are sometimes in their own area code. Yet no matter fragile things may seem at one moment, things always come back together and plow through.

As Roger Miller mentioned in our recent interview, a large number of people in the audience were indeed much younger than the band. These were people who were born around or well after the band originally broke up in 1983. Mixed with a number of folks who probably saw the band on their last stop in Dallas in 1982, there were smiles all around.

Another interesting wrinkle was how clear Weston's sonic tinkers could be heard. Original member Martin Swope laid the groundwork when the band was first together between 1979 and 1983, but Weston sounded like he had done his homework. On records like Vs., the flutters and sweeps of guitars and vocals augmented the sound in subtle ways. Live, when the effects kicked in, the room felt like it was spinning.

Even though the band doesn't tour often, Miller, Conley and Prescott played and sang clearly without a sign of major wear and tear. Maybe that's a key to their longevity -- a good lesson to be learned by the earlier bands on the bill, no doubt.

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"Holy shit" is probably the best way to describe Ume's 40-minute set. Lauren Larson led the Austin-based trio through 11 white-hot tunes that were both heavenly and skull-kicking. Larson scaled all over her fretboard as she sang her head off. The rhythm section propelled her the whole way through, making for a solid set. The band has an album coming out next month, and we'd all be well-advised to check it out.

Denton trio Tre Orsi opened the night at 8, playing their first show since last November. With friendly banter between songs from guitarist/vocalist Matt Barnhart, the ever-growing crowd took to the band's loud sound. Their songs felt like what Jade Tree released in the early '90s -- songs that didn't rigidly stomp around tags like college rock or post-hardcore.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: As I brought up in my interview with Roger Miller, I came to Mission of Burma through Moby's version of "That's When I Reach for My Revolver." And I never was mad about how Moby changed the lyrics in the video so MTV could play it. How could I begrudge a guy for introducing me to an incredible band?

By The Way: During Burma's second song, "1-2-3 Party!", Jimmy Conley (Clint's brother and tour manager) came out and sang the song's main lyrical hook.

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