No – The Echo – March 19, 2012

Better than: Yes?

Despite having played eight SXSW shows, L.A. indie rockers No showed no signs of wear at the Echo last night, playing the third Monday show of their March residency.

It felt like a homecoming when they took the stage at 11, with the crowd clapping, whistling and screaming. Apropos of having just driven 28 hours in a van from Austin to Los Angeles, the band opened with “The Long Haul” from their EP Don't Worry, You'll Be Here Forever. The audience sang along with the chorus.

While 1950s archived footage looped on a screen at the back of the stage, the band played all six songs off their EP and offered up two more, delivering a potent set of romance and melody driven by Carter's earnest and seductive rich baritone vocals. (NME recently called Carter “Hollywood's latest working class hero.”) Also in the mix were Michael Walker's pulsating and bold drums, Sean Daniel Stentz's warm, honey coated bass lines, and the lush and textured guitars and keys of Reese Richardson and Ryan Lallier.

When they played the sweetly yearning “Stay With Me” — the song that caused Time to list them as a band to watch at this year's SXSW — it immediately conjured mental images from their recently released video, depicting love between two crash test dummies desperate to remain together.

By the end of the song, Richardson had broken a guitar string, and asked if anyone had an extra guitar. In the meantime Carter told tales of sandstorms and traffic jams on the ride home from Austin. When Richardson got his guitar, they launched into their “love letter to Los Angeles,” “There's a Glow,” a song written about looking out over the city when the sun sets. With Carter's steady vocals, his gaze staring trance-like into the distance and pointed hand gestures, you could almost swear that he was watching a sun setting at the back of the room.

Sipping from a bottle of wine, Carter dedicated “Jackie O” to “anyone who's ever had a crush on someone from 1960.” And at one point, referring to the band's merchandise, Carter said, “It's pretty expensive to pay for gas to go to Austin and back, but we did it. We only went into overdraft three times.”

The band closed out the night with “Hold On,” which had the band letting loose but never losing hold over their tight musicianship. In typical No fashion, the song started simply but continued to add layer upon layer, leaving the dancing crowd happily exhausted.

Personal bias: People often compare Bradley Hanan Carter's vocals to The National's Matt Berninger. True enough, but so?

Random notebook dump: Sometimes watching Michael Walker playing the drums, I could swear dude has four hands.

Set list:

The Long Haul

Stay With Me

There's A Glow

Jackie O

Coming Down

Big Waves

Another Life

Hold On

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