Review by Ian Joulain
WHO: Alkaline Trio
Better than… a kick in the teeth.
At 10:06 P.M. the house lights went down,but the hooting and hollering had been fairly consistent for the last 10 minutes. As the smoke slowly rose to the ceiling the stage lights flickered and the house music began pumping Public Image Ltd's “Rise.” John Lydon's nasally voice engulfed the room as the night's headlining act emerged from the darkness and filed out onto the stage. Matt Skiba, guitar and vocals, Dan Andriano, bass and vocals, and Derek Grant, drums and vocals make up Alkaline Trio and on this evening they were greeted with a hero's welcome.
It has been 15 years since Alkaline Trio came onto the scene. The Chicago-based outfit were area favorites before becoming the nationally recognized group that they are today. After years of touring, a handful of lineup changes and eight studio albums, Skiba and company have ingrained themselves into the very fabric of the punk rock community.
Before launching into their set, Andriano removed his Pabst Blue Ribbon cap, sipped his Coors Light and strapped on his bass. Meanwhile, Skiba began to shake his legs and jump in place while Grant tightened his ride cymbal. In what seemed like seven seconds the band launched into fan favorite, “Armageddon.” The tone was set. It became quickly apparent that this crowd was not made up of casual fans. These were the diehards.
The band is out on tour supporting their latest release, Damnesia, which is made up of old favorites reworked as acoustic gems. With only two new songs and a Violent Femmes cover, Damnesia functions as a greatest hits record and the night's set list reflected that. With very little banter in between songs the band worked at a breakneck pace: hit after hit after hit. Between the galloping rim shots of “In Vein,” the muddy distorted guitar of “Mr. Chainsaw” and the acoustic reworking of “Clavicle” the band charged through their set.
It's not uncommon to see emphatic fist pumping or the occasional mosh pit at an Alkaline Trio concert, but the Troubadour is small. When a pit opens up, the room becomes that much smaller and those looking to avoid stray elbows huddle in close and move into spaces that don't exist. But it's the small room that adds to the spectacle. While the band has sold out much bigger venues, the intimate nature of the Troubadour brought the best out of the group. No going through the motions here.
Five songs into the set, Andriano began singing “Another Innocent Girl” while he strummed an out-of-tune bass. “Hold on, this is fucked up,” he said. as the guitar tech tuned his back up, he continued. “I am not too proud. The song needs to sound good, right? Let's start over.” The honesty was greeted with overwhelming applause. While the band did have that lone hiccup during the 23-song set, six of which were performed acoustically, it was the manner in which it was handled that will likely stick with the evening's sold-out crowd. After all, it's not everyday where a musician takes pride in putting on the best show possible even if it means starting a song over. Who cares about professionalism? Go full out and the rest will fall into place.
Personal bias: Typically I prefer the songs that are sung by Skiba, but on this particular evening Andriano did some serious heavy lifting.
The crowd: The twentysomethings were out in full force with their best punk rock t-shirts and polished piercings.
Overheard in the crowd:“Dude, did you remember to turn off the oven before we left?”
Random notebook dump: The Smoking Popes are one of Alkaline Trio's favorite bands and I don't think I could name one of their songs. Not a one.
Nose Over Tail
Another Innocent Girl
I'm Dying Tomorrow
Old Skool Reasons
Maybe I'll Catch Fire
This Could Be Love
If You Had a Bad Time
You've Got So Far To Go
Blue In The Face
Olde English 800
I Held Her In My Eyes