In support of their newest album on Epitaph Records, Chicago’s Alkaline Trio took Cursive and The Dear and Departed on a nationwide tour of mid-size venues. The tour arrived in New York City on March 12 at Nokia Theatre; the band had a lot to prove after a string of less-than-impressive albums (Crimson, Agony and Irony, and their latest, This Addiction) and a sub-par performance on their tour two years ago with heavyweights Rise Against, Thrice, and The Gaslight Anthem down the street at Roseland. Could Alkaline Trio somehow muster up enough inner-pain to return to their tortured origins?
The Dear and Departed opened the evening, playing a relatively unexciting blend of new wave and Gothic rock. Frontman Dan Smith (you may have seen him on LA Ink) did his best to entertain the crowd, but the four-piece did little to differentiate themselves from a plethora of similar-sounding modern British pop and rock acts. The band played selections form their Equal Vision Records debut, Chapters EP, as well as songs such as “Hometown Hero” from their older full-length, Something Quite Peculiar.
Nebraska’s Cursive opened with “Dorothy at Forty”, seemingly dragging through the first few songs of their eleven-song setlist. Even the jagged staple, “Butcher the Song”, wasn’t as powerful as it has been. This all seemed strange for a band featuring three of Saddle Creek Records’s most prolific musicians — frontman Tim Kasher, guitarist Ted Stevens, and bassist Matt McGinn — who have been touring together for more than a decade.
Thankfully, Kasher stepped things up with their latest single, “From the Hips”, and the band seemed to click from there out. “Art is Hard” and “The Martyr”, back-to-back, were the band’s strongest moments — it’s unfortunate that their two best albums were so overlooked in the setlist selection. Patrick Newberry provided solid horns and keys to “Big Bang” and indeed the whole set, greatly expanding Cursive’s sound. The near-hour set concluded with a strong performance of Mama, I’m Swollen‘s “I Couldn’t Love You Anymore”, setting the bar quite high for Alkaline Trio to follow.
Dorothy at Forty
Mama I’m Swollen
Butcher the Song
From the Hips
A Gentleman Caller
Let Me Up
Art is Hard
I Couldn’t Love You
Alkaline Trio began their set in an interesting order, with the first half following this pattern: the first song (and namesake) from the brand new This Addiction, a few old songs; second song from This Addiction; old songs. This pattern continued through the album’s fourth track, “Dead on the Floor”, before “Mercy Me” broke the trend. Guitarist Matt Skiba identified “Dine, Dine My Darling” as his favorite cut from the new album; Cursive’s Patrick Newmann contributed horns to “Lead Poisoning”.
The band wisely stayed away from This Addiction for the rest of the set until album-closer “Fine” started the encore, making room for large portion of their far-superior back catalog throughout the night. Good Mourning thankfully received heavy treatment, with about one third of the band’s set coming from the 2003 full-length including an excellent performance of “We’ve Had Enough”. “Nose Over Tail” preceded “97” as it does on the band’s 2000 self-titled album, which also contributed “Goodbye Forever”.
Dine, Dine My Darling
We’ve Had Enough
Lead Poisoning ft Patrick cursive on horns
Dead on the Floor
Nose Over Tail
Attitude (Misfits cover)
Blue in the Face
Aside from a poor performance of hit single “Mercy Me”, Alkaline Trio sounded sharp for their entire set. Misfits cover “Attitude” found the band switching instruments, with Skiba jumping on the skins and drummer Derek Grant stepping out from behind the kit and leading the charge. “Blue in the Face” finally wrapped up the band’s great performance, and Alkaline Trio left the stage victorious, having proven that they are an incredibly worthwhile live act.