Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords at the Turf Club, 10/20/10
October 20, 2010
The Turf Club
If Grant Cutler was at all nervous about how his new EP would fly with fans, he didn't let on at last night's EP-release show at the Turf Club's Clown Lounge. And with support from the talented Holly Newsom, Martin Devaney, and the rest of the Gorgeous Lords, it would seem that there was nothing to be worried about anyway.
Newsom, lead singer of the dynamic Zoo Animal, opened for Cutler with a set of brand new songs on an acoustic guitar ("Not even my drummer's heard these," she admitted). The set was standard Newsom: casually confessional between-song banter that at once warmed the crowd and put them at ease, until she would open her mouth to reveal a soulful voice that catches you off guard every single time, even if you're prepared for it.
Newsom took that big voice down a notch to a back-up chorus for Cutler's first song of his set, opening with "Orphan", the first track off the EP. After that, it was all Cutler and his boys--that is, the Gorgeous Lords: Noah Paster, Matt Scharenbroich, and Scott Johnson. They played with the ease and assurance of musicians who were surrounded by good friends while they playing songs they all liked, which was essentially the vibe Cutler was probably going for, and definitely the effect he achieved.
The Clown Lounge was the perfect venue choice for Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords, with just enough dim lighting, rotating colored disco balls, and closed space to give the audience a chance to shut up and focus on the music. Cutler was seated center stage in front of a microphone for the 8-song set, barely three feet away from the first members of the audience, while the rest of his band was comfortably clustered behind him.
It would have been very easy for the music off of the new EP to make for a boring live show; after all, tender and profound though they may be, the songs are a far cry from dance-pop or even indie-pop. They are the kind of songs you listen to when you're alone, before the sun is up, or when you need silence but silence is too heavy. They are not the kind of songs you listen to when you are already in a good mood--and yet, they are oddly lifting. But the EP translated to a live stage extremely well, perhaps in a testament to Cutler's performance prowess as he charged the songs with a little more energy and threw in a few unreleased tracks--as well as a stunning cover of Zoo Animal's "Black And Gold".
But what is most striking about Cutler's solo music, and possibly the most surprising--more so even than the shift in genres--is the lyricism of his songs. Cutler's verses read like poetry. Lyrics from "The Light" capture all the paint of human emotion and heartbreak in just a few short lines: "I drained your heart into submission/Just when I found it again/I was holding it there as high as I wished/Before I could put it back again". And with Cutler articulating every syllable, almost self-consciously, the universal truth in his music is hard to ignore.
It definitely wasn't ignored by any of the (sober) audience members, and while at certain moments mid-song Cutler appeared to be in a music-coma, it's probably also true that some of the crowd was, too.
Before his last song, Cutler glanced around the room and cut most of the cool revolving lights. He smiled a little, thanked everyone for coming out and staying out, and then turned his chair slightly and faced his band mates. "We usually play in a circle in my living room," laughed Cutler, and then, jam-session style, he closed the night.