In the next couple weeks, Joshua and I will compile respective lists of our favorite shows of the year. Barring any unexpected greatness, The 1900s‘ Friday night show at The Empty Bottle — stuffed, probably, to capacity — will top my picks.
Because the gig was in support of Return of the Century, released last month, much of their set was devoted to the new stuff. Actually, with the exception of “Two Ways” and “Bring the Good Boys Home,” I don’t think anything else they rocked last night came from an earlier release.
Let me begin by noting two big things that struck me about The 1900s:
Their live show is unexpectedly loud and high energy. As much as I enjoyed Return of the Century — so much so that it’ll top my list of the year’s best albums, too — I just didn’t expect it to translate so well to stage. By that I mean I didn’t anticipate songs like “Babies” or “Kidnap Runaway,” or any of ’em really, to be amplified so strongly. The 1900s were genuine rockers at The Bottle, and I totally loved it.
- The 1900s are a unit. There isn’t one member, I think, that commands the stage over another. I mean sure, Jeanine O’Toole is distracting beautiful and raps her dual tambourines and swings her assortment of shaker instruments — even slaps the floor on a few occasions — like no other, and Edward Anderson’s got the swagger of a total guitar-totin’ frontman, and Caroline Donovan is angelic, both in voice and in keyboard ticklin’ abilities, on tunes like “Lions Fur.” And yet, The 1900s doesn’t have a bona fide leader. Is this a good thing? Certainly. More often than not, bands don’t have the chemistry to do so. But those that do are in a very, very good place.
However, what The 1900s did best Friday night was revamp some of their recorded material into lengthy and, I think, improvised crowd pleasers. Take “Overreactin’,” which up until now wasn’t a tune I replayed as frequently as others on Return of the Century. Midway through, three-quarters of the way in, I don’t remember which, the group went off script by digging into the violin hook that, on record, leads out the track. The tune’s typical three-minute runtime was, what, doubled? Tripled? Over and over, Andra Kulans repeated the melody while Charles Ransford gently caressed his drum kit and Jeanine shook something. Edward, too, rocked a pretty guitar solo.
Another, “Two Ways,” was The 1900s at play. About the same length, on record, as “Overreactin’,” “Two Ways” morphed into what could very well be the group’s unofficial anthem. Jeanine passed around some playthings to the audience, and just a few minutes needed passing before The Bottle went up in smoke. About half of attendees forgot where they were — and perhaps the same fraction of 1900s — as “Two Ways” jammed on and on into the night. It was awesome.
Really the only crime in The 1900s’ record release show was that they denied to play an encore. There wasn’t a body in the room that was ready to leave, and yet the group closed on “Bring the Good Boys Home” and then flew off the stage. Once The Bottle kicked in some dreaded filler music into the space, we knew — with a sigh — that that was it.
Compared to the experience of everything that came beforehand, though, it’s a rather negligible quibble.