The last time I got to see The Fiery Furnaces in concert it was the first time. It was a balmy Austin night at SXSW '06, and they were a few weeks away from releasing the recently leaked Bitter Tea, probably my second favorite album of theirs (behind Blueberry Boat and Gallowsbird's Bark - wait a minute, I can't do math.) Their performance had let me down; the band known for their somewhat zany live performing walked on stage sans the one thing that makes them sound so crazy in the first place: Matt Friedberger's keyboards. Instead he stayed on the guitar all night and just a made a bunch of squakking noises with his six string, while they played sped up version of songs from Rehearsing My Choir, the album that featured the grandmother of Matt and sister/lead singe Eleanor on vocals. No, Grandma FF was not there nor was it really that good.
The Fiery Furnaces were the first band I got in to in the blog age, so they will always and forever hold a specal place in my heart and that's why I had to give them another chance 3+ years later. On the heels of their eighth album, I'm Going Away, the band scheduled a few dates wherein the band would play the new album in its entierity - and they did - just not in sequencial order, which I thought was interesting but worked at the same time. Just a few hours before the show, I was given my copy of Away and, as said fan listed at the start of this paragraph, I put it on immediately but tuned it out halfway through on purpose. Why you ask? I guess it's kind of like I didn't want to read the book before seeing the play or vice versa, didn't want the night spoiled for me.
Matt again left the keyboards at home, but it seems that this time it worked for the better - his guitar sounding much cleaner and direct as opposed to the sound of it having a seizure or something. After opening with a few classics, including an awesome rendition of Bark fave "Leaky Tunnel," the Away party commenced. Opening with the lead track, Elenaor found herself quipping ahead and out of sync of the band at times, but that's just a trademark of the band that their fans should know by now. "Charmaine Champagne" was a highlight of the evening, not only because noted as Elenaor's favorite but also mine. The core outside of the Friedberger duo, Sebadoh bassist Jason Lowenstein and drummer Bob D'Amico, have been with the band almost long enough at this point they might as well be called members of the group. They gave life and showed their presence in new numbers like "Ray Bouiver" and "Staring At The Steeple", while helping to fine tune older numbers like the epically spazztic "Chris Michaels" and pompous rocker "Single Again."
And after the show and I let it digest for a day, I listened to I'm Going Away very intently. Surprisingly, I was happy with the live performance this time around; although the album is filled with scales of piano and left and right, the band did just find to interpret it as a four piece rock band will nothing more than one guitar, a drum, a bass, and that person up in front who kept blowing their whistle all night.
Here Comes The Summer / Leaky Tunnel / Chris Michaels / I'm Going Away / The End Is Near / Charmaine Champagne / Cut The Cake / Ray Bouvier / Staring At The Steeple / Even In The Rain / Keep Me In The Dark / Lost At Sea / Cups And Punches / Take Me 'Round Again / Drive To Dallas / Duplexes of The Dead / Ex-Guru // Single Again
Download: "The End Is Near" [mp3]