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It seems like everyone went through a Cursive phase at one point or another during their teen years. They were one of bands that made decent emo music before it became emo music and never lost the ambition that made it interesting in the first place. Of course, that’s a blessing and a curse. Last month’s I Am Gemini was a sprawling, difficult concept album that found the band getting a little too big for its britches.
Releasing a dud does little to deter Cursive fans, who bought up all of the tickets to Sunday’s Lincoln Hall show in Chicago well in advance. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they brought Cymbals Eat Guitars—who recently played Lincoln Hall on their own—as main support. Throw in Omaha, Neb.’s Conduits (some shows got the always amazing Ume), and you’ve got yourself a pretty good-looking bill.
The surprise of the night was Conduits. With a fuzziness reminiscent of Lush paired with a Radiohead-like twitchiness, Conduits delivered the most interesting set of the night. Rather than exploding out of the gate, the band took its time building to a climax in its song. Did it sound anything like Cursive? Not really. But it’s pretty easy to see why they’d want to be the ones who introduce their fellow Nebraskans.
Still riding high off last year’s Lenses Alien, Cymbals Eat Guitars managed to bring in a more than a few of their own fans—including at least one squealing fangirl. Unfortunately, fans may have been disappointed with the band’s abbreviated set that was marred by bad sound. The guitar was buried in the mix beneath an absurdly loud Rhodes piano. A chorus effect that should have swirled and swept sounded like Jell-O until the last few songs, which is a shame, as the band ended its set 15 minutes early.
After playing together for nearly 30 years, Cursive’s songwriting is just as embarrassingly personal and dramatic as ever—and that’s a good thing.
While “Big Bang” was an early highlight, trudging along with blaring trumpet and fuzzed-up guitars, it was the songs from 2003’s The Ugly Organ that really got the crowd going. “Driftwood: A Fairy Tale” and “A Gentleman Caller” served as olive branches to fans that were unenthused by the band’s recent output.
There were few pauses between songs, leaving frontman Tim Kasher without banter until midway through the main set. For some reason, he took the opportunity to tell the audience a bizarre story about receiving a handjob as a teenager, and things got really disgusting really quickly. Understandably, he didn’t do nearly as much talking after leaving the crowd with that nugget.
The encore was where Cursive really started to shine, even with clunkers like “Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton” and the unfortunately titled “Wowowow” included. After giving a brilliant take on “The Recluse,” the band loosened up a bit on “Art Is Hard” by segueing into the chorus of TLC’s “No Scrubs.” This is when it became clear why Cursive never lost the ambition: it’s still genuinely enjoying this. In an alternative scene where sincerity and happiness are passé, it’s nice to see the guys in Cursive enjoying themselves and supporting great up-and-comers while they’re at it.
Cursive at Lincoln Hall on March 25, 2012, setlist:
- “This House Alive”
- “Big Bang”
- “A Gentleman Caller”
- “The Cat and Mouse”
- “A Red So Deep”
- “The Sun and Moon”
- “Driftwood: A Fairy Tale”
- “We’re Going to Hell”
- “The Martyr”
- “Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton”
- “I Couldn’t Love You”
- “The Recluse”
- “From the Hips”
- “Sink to the Beat”
- “Art is Hard”
- “Eulogy for No Name”