Transona Five, A Weather, The New Year Granada Theater September 18, 2008
Better Than: Sulking and reminiscing about the way things were, that's for sure.
The New Year kept things in line all night. (Sarah Jane Semrad)
The New Year's performance at the Granada Theater last night was, oddly enough, very similar to the structure of most of the band's songs. With one exception: The end.
It started off slowly, but nonetheless impressively: The opening notes of "Folios" were already playing as the stage's curtain was pulled, revealing that the band had begun its set, whether or not the crowd was prepared.
As that track--the opener to the band's fantastic new self-titled release--goes, it lulled its listeners into a trance, eventually building up to a crescendo that abruptly ended five minutes later. And when that song was followed up by it's successor on the album, "The Company I Can Get", things looked as if this night would truly be a magical one.
The set's build-up seemed imminent. Things were about to get big.
Only, a snag in that plan: Between the third and fourth songs of the set, stand-in drummer Jeff Ryan needed to adjust his high hat, and the lack of silence that came as he did so revealed a sound glitch--feedback from the bass amp--that neither Matt nor Bubba Kadane could to tolerate. For the excruciating next few minutes, as the band (which, on this night, also featured bassist Mike Donofrio and touring third guitarist Will Johnson of Centro-matic) stood and waited for the issue to be tended to.
Concern started to rear its ugly head: Maybe this wouldn't be the treat we'd thought it would be.
But just as that thought began entering the crowd's mind, Matt Kadane flippantly asked no one in particular (the crowd? the band? the sound guy?) "You ready?" and the music was back into its anticipated quiet-loud-louder progression.
As the night prodded along, The New Year, ever the emotive slow-core act that it is, continued to lure the audience into its grasp, with song after song of slow beginning, impassioned middle and fully-loaded end. Like the song structure that is so uniquely The New Year's, the set kept building and building and building upon itself, recharging and replaying the same form as each song ended and the next began.
And just as the set started to reach truly epic proportions in awe inspiration, and all that slow, two-steps-forward-one-step-back progress started to add up, it ended.
That's the thing with The New Year's catalog: These are perfectly imperfect sonic presentations; truly, deeply impressive pop rock songs intentionally mussed up with a careful tussle; songs that hint at mainstream accessibility, teasing the anticipated paths of their trails, but never quite achieving them; songs that, because they insistingly glance at the obvious routes but intentionally follow the opposite direction, wind up evoking true thought; songs that are great because, well, they could be but they choose not to be, actually.
And though the set ended rather abruptly, just like most of the band's songs, the unfortunately sparse crowd refused to accept such a fate, clapping appreciatively until the band, sheepishly and surprisingly, returned for an encore.
"Thank you for wanting to hear more of these songs that we've written," an almost flabbergasted Matt remarked into his microphone, before glancing at the two newer members to the line-up (Johnson and Ryan) and saying: "We're gonna play all the songs that this lineup knows how to play--which, tonight, means...two more."
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The two-song encore served as an ellipses to the band's sound, replacing its expected, sharp period mark. And never before has an ellipses proved so fulfilling. --Pete Freedman
Critic's Notebook: Personal Bias: I think I've made my opinion on The New Year pretty clear in recent days--I think it's an immensely talented collective--and I'm perhaps even more in awe of their output because I'm such a late convert to it.
Random Note: Not at all surprisingly, there was a strong turnout of talented local musicians among the 150-person or so crowd at the theater. Game recognizes game, I guess.
By The Way: The sound issue near the start of the set wasn't Jeff Ryan's fault; if anything, the fact that he stopped playing allowed for the flaw in the sound system to be isolated. The rest of the set--aside from one squeal as the sound engineer tried to regain his bearings on the board--sounded great. And for a guy that's just serving as a stand-in for the band's usual drummer on the Texas leg of The New Year's national tour, his comprehension of the material was outstanding.