Over The Weekend: The Dears, Great Northern and Eulogies at Hailey's

The Dears, Great Northern, Eulogies
Hailey's Club, Denton
May 16, 2009

Better than: a bill featuring The Dear Hunter along with The Dear and the Departed.

For The Dears' first show in Denton, it was rather surprising to see Hailey's far from capacity. Blame this on the fact that UNT was out of session, maybe.

But for whatever reason, a lot of people missed one hell of a show.

Touring behind its fourth proper album, 2008's Missiles, the group kicked things off with frontman Murray Lightburn standing behind the crowd, equipped with a wireless microphone.

People began to realize that this version of Missiles's "Saviour" was not coming from the CD. Lightburn slowly walked towards the center of the crowd, which then circled around him. With his six bandmates arriving on stage to help sing the final parts of the song,, it was already obvious why Lightburn is such a charming frontman: He means every word he sings, and he doesn't swoon or mope around like a lazy chump.

The band then went straight into "Dream Job," and the remainder of the set was a finely rehearsed collection of the band at its best. With a set list featuring a number of satisfying songs from Missiles and 2006's Gang of Losers, the band's rock element was more prominent live than it is on their records.

And that was a very good thing.

At no point during the band's nearly two-hour set did anything lag or drag. Each song flowed right into the next, even though many songs differed greatly from one another. (A prime example came as the calm drift of "You and I Are a Gang of Losers" led into the head-bopping, "Lost in the Plot.") After finishing its main set with the rousing jam "Lights Off," the show could have ended and people would have gotten their money's worth.

But even though there were just a couple dozen fans left in front of the stage, these passionate and dedicated fans wanted more. Without much needling, the band came back and did a two-song encore, including the beloved, "22: The Death of All the Romance."  

And openers Eulogies and Great Northern definitely earned the right to open this show. Eulogies had urgent, snappy tunes without snot or anger; driven by sliding and walking basslines, the result was not sugar-coated or ironic mope. Great Northern, meanwhile, led by dynamic male and female lead vocals, had a similar vibe. The propulsive, cracking drumming definitely kept things going strong. At certain times, I couldn't help but think of the great Last Beat band, Vibrolux.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've been listening to The Dears for years, but if you asked me about almost any of their song titles, I'd probably be stumped. Just hope that the band's song titles don't end up in a Trivial Pursuit-type game and I'm paired with you on game night.

By The Way: The Dears used a staple instrument of '80s pop that has not aged kindly: a key-tar.

Random note: With Dallas now enforcing a smoking ban, could Denton be next? I had mixed feelings about coming home from this show smelling like an ashtray...

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