Saturday, March 3, 2012

Concert Review | Blind Pilot at Plush in Saint Louis

Photo by Chris Lay

They're playing our song
They're playing our song
Can you see the light?
Can you hear the hum?

 I still have chills, so let's start at the end.

It was the only encore of the evening, and Israel Nebeker politely asked us to halt our conversations so we could be together. He and his band gracefully stepped off the stage, unplugged their instruments, and very quietly made Plush into someone's chilled-out basement, strumming through one of their best songs, "3 Rounds and a Sound," while we sang with him. Well, mostly, we sang over him. And that was sort of the point.

If you were in the back of the venue, perhaps most of the magic was lost. But the beauty was evident near the stage; even a big and buff security guard stood nearby, with a confused look on his face as to say, "do they really do this stuff at concerts?" I think even he was enjoying it.

Blind Pilot took a chance, and most everyone obliged. If you were one of the ones still talking -- and there will always be a few -- you will keep missing moments like this, and that's too bad. Because all you need to do is take a few moments out of your life and listen to what's being given to you. The opportunities are sometimes few.

The performance of "3 Rounds and a Sound" exemplified what's still alive in a world where live music can get 600+ people together and make time stand still. Nebeker knew it was working, because near the end, he had to sing louder and smile wider. It was a privilege to be part of it all, and I just wish more bands would try something like this.

Photo by Chris Lay

Before last night, I never really considered Blind Pilot's songs to be anthemic in any way, but perhaps I was wrong. From where I was standing, which was near the front of the stage, Nebeker's words were shouted back to him all night from his fans, during the opening "Keep You Right," "One Red Thread," "We Are the Tide," "I Buried a Bone," "Two Towns From Me," "The Story I Heard," and another quiet moment, "New York," which was as beautiful as anything I've experienced in quite some time. "I got wise and I got old, not once, not once did I fold," we all sang together.

Earlier, before "New York," Nebeker had a Neil Young and Crazy Horse moment in the middle of "Always." He fiddled with his electric guitar in front of an amp, distorting the sound, and decided at just the right time to explode into the third verse. The girl standing next to me asked, "Holy crap, what is this song?"

Emphasis like this is key to Blind Pilot's live show. It's the exact moment where Dave Jorgensen, who was bouncing around all night, appears out of nowhere with his trumpet. It's when Luke Ydstie brings thunder on his upright bass. It's when a song like "White Apple" changes and becomes louder near its end.

It's the little things like when Nebeker shuffles over to Kati Claborn, who was excellent on her banjo, and they both sing, "That wind is calling my name, and I won't wait," at the end of "Half Moon."

This all happened last night -- the charm and detailed beauty from a band out of Portland, Oregon. They were playing our songs, and they got them right.

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