Brand New / Kevin Devine @ Ewing 1/23

March 12, 2009

On a cold Friday night, an hour before doors, a line wrapped throughout The College of New Jersey to the front of Kendall Hall. Likely the college’s biggest draw in recent times (if not of all time), the seated Kendall Hall would not fit most of the students in line and instead only the lucky few hundred would make it inside.

Kevin Devine and his God Damned Band started the evening with 2003’s “You’re My Incentive”. Intent on showcasing material from his forthcoming full-length which is more “rock” or “band”-focused than previous efforts, Kevin did slip in some drug-influenced staples from Put Your Ghost to Rest like “Buried for the Buzz” and “Just Stay”. The full setlist:

You’re My Incentive
Another Bag Of Bones
I Could Be With Anyone
You’re Trailing Yourself
Buried By the Buzz
Just Stay
My Brothers Blood

Brand New took the TCNJ stage after a half-hour of setup, encouraging fans to stand up and make the show seem a little more “rock-show” oriented. Starting with the simplistic (but charming) “Mix Tape”, the band showcased a side they seemed all to hesitant to show during recent tours: a heavy dose of old punk-pop favorites amidst a set that emitted positive energy (noticeably absent were melancholic cuts such as “Limousine”, “Me vs Marodonna vs Elvis”, “Handcuffs”, and “Coca-Cola” from recent shows). The full set:

Mix Tape
The Shower Scene
The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
Sowing Season
Jaws Theme Swimming
Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades
You Won’t Know
Jude Law and a Semester Abroad
Seventy Times 7
Welcome to Bangkok
Play Crack the Sky

For the first time in years, frontman Jesse Lacey didn’t appear miserable; he joked with the crowd from time to time, enjoying a laugh about the crowd’s delight over “Jude Law” and “Seventy Times 7”, played back-to-back. His voice was on-point, perhaps sounding as good as I’ve ever heard him.

“Sowing Season” introduced the college audience to the new Brand New; the first three songs were singalongs straight from the crowd’s teenage years, but the first song from The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me found the crowd quiet, unsure of what to expect next.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Brand New show without the selected use of two drummers; songs such as “Millstone” are really enhanced by the technique. The band seemed more discerning regarding their newfound love for jamming/improv by letting it slip into just a few songs–culminating with the final “Welcome to Bangkok” session–and it worked in their favor, keeping their songs focused and potent.

“Sic Transit Gloria” is a difficult song for the band (locking the bass parts together seems to be the issue), but the song sounded as good as I’ve heard it live. “You Won’t Know” received fairly standard treatment, and “Jesus” sounded good as well. The band’s final song featured Kevin Devine on “Play Crack the Sky”.

The show was certainly one of the best performances by Brand New, a band that is very hit-or-miss live. With a quarter of their setlist coming from their debut album, it was a nice treat to hear some older songs that don’t get played too often. Kevin Devine and the Goddamned Band sounded great as well, making the evening a very enjoyable event.