Saw Sleeping at Last at the Hotel Cafe tonight. Can a concert be good but also a bit of a letdown? That’s sort of how I feel about this one. SAL made the transition to a one-piece this year, and the show was billed as “An intimate evening of music with Ryan O’Neal”, so I wasn’t expecting full band splendor, but I guess I still thought there’d be fuller arrangements since he had hired a cellist, an electric guitarist, opening act David Hodges to play piano, and a few female vocalists he met on the recent mini-tour for the Breaking Dawn soundtrack. Most of these people were only on stage for a handful of songs, not all of them in a row, so there was a lot of shuffling around, awkward segues, and general inefficiency. A setlist that flows well has honestly never been SAL’s strong suit. They hit a lot of my favorites from Yearbook, plus a few oldies (though nothing from Ghosts), plus the inevitable Twilight song, “Turning Page” (which I was hearing for the first time, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty good).
David Crowder Band was phenomenal tonight on what is, sadly, their final tour. Though they opened with one new song, previewed another new one later in the set, and even rearranged into “bluegrass band form” for a rendition of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” from their new Christmas CD (as well as covers of “Because He Lives”, “I Saw the Light”, and “I’ll Fly Away”), most of the set played like Crowder’s greatest hits. That’s to be expected given that their final album isn’t in our hands yet (and sadly, most of it will be played live). “The Veil” was the first recognizable number, an interesting medley of “Shadows” (complete with a rap break from one of the guitarists) and “What a Miracle” came later in the set, and my absolute favorite Crowder song, “God Almighty, None Compares” appeared in its full seven-minute splendor about midway through. So I feel somewhat vindicated for missing out on the Church Music tour. The set was otherwise heavy on selections from A Collision and Illuminate (they brought “Intoxicating” back out to play, which was great fun except Crowder kept mixing up the words – embarrassing when you have them there on screen for everyone to sing!), while Remedy got the short shrift with only one song representing it (“The Glory of It All”), and Can You Hear Us?may as well have not existed. (OK by me – those are my two least favorite Crowder albums, and I caught the Remedy tour four years ago anyway.) I think it was a good balance of expected live show standards and interesting surprises. They mostly stick to the album arrangements, but they play them with gusto and since it’s worship music it’s easy for everyone to get into. Crowder always draws great crowds – one of the few times I can be in a very “churchy” concert atmosphere and not be at all bothered by it.
Fleet Foxes put on a solid show at the Greek Theater tonight. It was my first time seeing them live, and an outdoor venue was the perfect place for it – moon shining overhead, crickets chirping in the background, those pristine vocal harmonies echoing off into the clear night. Full setlist is in my main concert journal entry. I could go into a lot of detail, but just to summarize, I’ll say that FF is capable of a wall of sound that packs a real punch, so it’s not always the chill “acoustic sensitive” experience you’d expect, even though the live arrangements are mostly faithful to the album versions (with some variance in tempo for dramatic effects, usually during the harmony-heavy vocal breaks). The only thing I’d knock off points for – and only meager points at that – would be their awkward stage presence – little bits of funny between-song banter here and there, but it’s a bit disruptive to the mood of their songs and you can tell they’re trying to fill time while retuning (which they have to do a lot – they even opened with awkward silence and stage banter before getting tuned right for their first song). No biggie. When they’re playing, they’re awesome, and they hit pretty much every highlight from their past and present records that I could think of, with maybe “Drops in the River” being the one exception I would have liked to hear but didn’t.