Live review: Alkaline Trio, Cursive @ the Gothic TheatreBy Billy Thieme | March 1st, 2010 | No Comments »
Sometimes the adage that “there’s nothing new under the sun” rings a little too true, especially when it’s in reference to punk bands in their second decade of existence. Alkaline Trio suffered from the aphorism on Thursday night at the Gothic, as they entertained a sold-out crowd with a bland brand of emo-pop-punk that had trouble raising eyebrows, let alone ire.
One of the most exciting aspects of punk, indeed of most rock ‘n’ roll, is built-in anger and rebellion against just about anything — sometimes expressed loud and fast, sometimes not. With punk rock, it was always fast, loud and sloppy, based more on pure adrenaline-fueled passion than skill. The punk the Trio played that night was more shallow and choreographed than sloppy and passionate.
It certainly wasn’t that Matt Skiba (vocals, guitar), Dan Andriano (vocals, bass) and Derek Grant (vocals, drums) don’t know what they’re doing — they can play their instruments, and they showed it all through their 90-minute set. In fact, it was more likely that skill that stripped the songs of the vitality, wry humor and heartbreaking angst that comes through on their early recordings.
Skiba’s vocals came across as a diluted mimicry of a young Mike Ness, but with virtually no rasp or gruff edge — it was simply too smooth to match the sound behind it, or to sound as angst-ridden as the songs’ lyrics try to be. Andriano’s singing, by contrast, was a little more emphatic, but it still came off as forced.
At times, it seemed that the trio were only going through the motions, finishing one tune and starting the next — sometimes with a few words between them — in an unsettlingly automatic fashion. And, while the crowd down in front seemed pumped as they moshed occasionally, and even screamed approval after some of the band’s hits, I saw more yawns and blank faces throughout the rest of the Gothic than expressions of glee, or even interest.
After they started the set with “This Addiction” (the title song from their new release), many of the crowd began to filter out, and by the time they got to “Dine, Dine My Darling” (an obvious play on Misfits’ “Die, Die, My Darling” that, promisingly tongue-in-cheek on the record, fell flat live), there was an almost-constant trickle heading out. It may have been that a lot of the crowd was actually there for openers Cursive (a set I sadly missed because of a scheduling screw-up). Alkaline Trio didn’t have the staying power they needed to keep a full Gothic interested.
As stripped-down and bare as punk rock is supposed to be — with limited instrumentation, three or four chords per song and more screaming than crooning — there’s always been an undercurrent of passion. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes it’s personal, but it’s always powerful.
Alkaline Trio certainly followed the formula, but lacked the passion — which made them more a candidate for Disney Channel than lasting punk rock glory.
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Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.