There are few things in life that are more important than music, and there is no better way to enjoy music than at a live performance. So when I heard that my very favorite band was playing a few hours away, naturally I was very excited. But it came with a sort of guarded optimism; much as was the case with Good & Evil itself, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, as there was no way it could live up to my unrealistic expectations.
And exactly as with the new album, expectations were exceeded and left in the dust.
But before I begin blathering (as my wife and I have been doing since the other night) I’ll look at the evening chronologically. First on stage was the extremely talented Casey Shea, who as you probably know stood in for Joe during his absence. While it’s probably not the sort of music I would listen to on my free time (to each his own), there was no doubting this man’s skill as a writer and performer. Each of his songs, which I might describe as sort of a bluesy-classic rock, were wonderfully composed and expertly played. The best aspect of Casey’s set however was undoubtedly his stage presence. It was apparent after about a minute that this man was born to be onstage; his own banter, his animated tendencies, his audience participation segment—all proved his prowess as a performer and made me constantly think of how, while he’s perfectly entertaining on his own, any group of equally-talented musicians could benefit enormously by having him in the band. I don’t know if he’ll eventually get a group together (or already has) or continue going solo, but whatever he chooses it’s clear that he’s got the potential to go places.
Next up was Speak, performing a set which honestly took me off guard. My first reaction when they got onstage was surprise at how very young the four guys looked, but I was soon blown away by how much they rocked. The energy they exuded was incredible, and they had no problem finishing up the crowd warm-up and psyche-out process that Casey started. The band was incredibly tight, always in perfect rhythm amidst their blazing fast synth-laden pop melodies. And while in my opinion the impact is significantly lessened in their studio recordings, the most fun and interesting parts of the set were whenever the three singers harmonized in their awesome falsetto. The heavily vocal sections were what set this band apart from the rest of the genre (for me, at least), adding a rare kind of spirit to the performance. Also fun to watch was the guitarist’s proficiency in making adjustments to his various effects pedals on the fly, which was a feat in itself. Altogether I was surprised and delighted by the band, and it was the perfect set up for what was to come.
Finally the Guys In Ties started trickling in and after a comically, feedback-riddled sound check, they went backstage and returned with their outfits. They then proceeded to blow me away with the most awesome performance I’ve ever witnessed. Every concert I’ve attended I’ve looked at the people in the very front and wondered what it would be like to be right there, practically at the band’s feet as they rock pretty much to your face. Well I’m very glad to report that my wife and I were first in line and thus first to the very front of the stage… and the opportunity couldn’t have come on a better night.
The band played every song on the new album but “Fate of the Stars” (which is understandable, it being a long and complicated song), along with a fair share of MMMM and concert staples. I was personally hoping to hear one of MMMM’s Joe Hawley epics, but the set was already much too packed full of goodness. Good & Evil is without a doubt one of my favorite albums of all time (and quite possibly my absolute favorite, the more I listen to it) and hearing the songs live was an experience all its own. Being there, hearing them sing, watching them with their instruments, witnessing the chemistry between the members — it was an experience that was easily worth the measly twelve bucks it took to get in, many times over.
Those who were sad to find the easygoing goofiness of MMMM absent in G&E will find all the solace they need at a live show. The band interaction was a joy to witness, with plenty of humorous goofs to keep the whole affair lighthearted and fun (such as needing to start a song over because one of the guitars wasn’t on, and Zubin reprimanding an audience member for shouting a longwinded message at an inopportune time). And of course, a lucky soul by the name of George was allowed to rock out on the theremin during the “on” outro of “The Trap” (much to my intense jealousy). I was surprised to see Bora up on stage with his own orange tie, and I thought his introduction at the beginning was particularly funny.
It was all over much too quickly, as is the case with anything as wonderful as a concert, but the greatest part of the evening came after the show. After every concert I’ve been to the band members either retreated immediately to their bus or only met with fans reluctantly a few hours after the show, and only long enough to sign a few autographs on their way out. It’s very fortunate, then, that this show was the exception. Right when the lights went up the band gathered in the back to meet and greet every single fan. There were certainly crowds to get through, but I got the opportunity to meet every single tie-clad fellow, even sharing pleasant conversation with many of them. It was a dream-come-true to finally chat with the members of my favorite band, and certainly the best thing that’s happened to me since getting married. Most of the artists I’ve met, while perfectly nice people, have sort of a “high and mighty” thing going on, or at least a “crap, another annoying fan” thing. Not so with the good men of Tally Hall. Each one seemed genuinely pleased to talk with me, repeatedly thanking me for making it to the show. I packed a box filled with a random assortment of items I thought they might find somewhat amusing (the contents of which I’ll post somewhere else sometime) and Zubin seemed honestly curious as to what it might hold. While I was a tad star struck (as is natural), talking to these guys was more like hanging out with old friends. They were so welcoming and I’ve seen them so many times in sketches and THIS that it honestly felt like I’ve known them for a long time. And that is a very special experience to have with people whose music is so important to you.
I could go on for hours. Suffice to say, it was the greatest concert experience I’ve ever had, and it’s definitely a memory I’ll carry with me forever. So if you like Tally Hall and live anywhere close to where they’re going to be playing, you have no excuse. Grab some extra cash for a few shirts, head on over to the venue and have the time of your life. You’ll always be glad you did.