Dark Dark Dark at the Cedar Cultural Center, 12/08/10
|Photo by Jeff McLaughlin|
December 8, 2010
Cedar Cultural Center
After an extensive tour of Europe (which they jokingly proceeded to tell us all about throughout the show), Dark Dark Dark returned home to the friendly confines of the Cedar Cultural Center on Wednesday night and delighted the near-capacity crowd with their stirring, deeply affecting style of chamber folk. Performing as a quintet on this evening, the band seemed loose and relaxed, quite happy to perform in front of a (mostly) respectful and reverential audience filled with fans and family members alike.
It was a fluid, impassioned seventy-minute set that featured a majority of the songs from their excellent full-length Wild Go, as well as a few other choice numbers, all of which resonated strongly with the standing room only crowd. Nona Marie Invie immediately set a poignant mood for the evening as she sat down to the piano to kick off the set with "Say The Word." It was a bit tentative at first as the band settled into their surroundings, but eventually soared towards the finish. It led smoothly into "Something For Myself," a beautiful, heart-wrenching number that was one of the night's early standouts.
Marshall LaCount alternated between electric banjo, clarinet and the piano throughout the set, providing subtle sonic textures that lushly colored their arrangements all evening. Before a rousing version of "Heavy Heart," which found Invie switching over to accordion, LaCount praised both Minneapolis as well as openers Brute Heart (who put on a splendid opening set), by saying the local trio "put out one of the most interesting albums of the year--in the whole country, possibly the whole world. A lot of Minneapolis bands do that."
That type of mutual admiration was on full display all evening, as the band seemed quite at ease on the stage, happy to see a room full of familiar faces, which caused them to tell colorful stories about their tour (they loved France, didn't care much for England other than London, and really can't stand Phoenix) and their songs that added some depth and charm to their already haunting melodies and deeply revealing lyrics. When Invie mentioned after a tender version of "The Hand" that she missed the choir that usually performs with the band when they play that song in Minneapolis, and heard their missing voices while she was singing, LaCount teased "that was Jonathan [Kaiser, the cellist]." Invie explained, "No, it was four girl voices." To which LaCount jokingly insisted, "Yeah, it was Jonathan."
The band was clearly on home turf here, which was never more evident as LaCount rocked the piano bench like a bucking bronco after a wonderful version of "Right Path." Invie teased him by announcing "I know Marshall's mom is here to see that." Which LaCount quickly dismissed by claiming, "You can't surprise her." That warm sense of affinity imbued their delicate songs all evening, which allowed the band the freedom to experiment a bit with their arrangements, giving them an added edge and allure. LaCount would occasionally put his clarinet between his legs while he bent down and plucked a few notes on his banjo, which was still cradled in its stand, creating a muted but essential texture that enhanced their sound considerably.
From "Celebrate" on, the set was truly exquisite, as the band smoothly transitioned from one heady number to the next, with "In Your Dreams," "Robert" and "Wild Goose Chase" all beguiling the gracious crowd. Invie introduced "Wild Goose Chase" by plainly stating, "My friend Joe (O'Connell) wrote this. Ah...yep." It proved to be quite a lovely, lilting song, which flowed perfectly into the stunning main set closers "Wild Go" and "Daydreaming," which were utterly grand and acutely emotive, and ended the set enthusiastically.
After a brief encore, and with the crowd still cheering loudly, the band came back onstage, taken aback by the warm reception of the packed house. Invie went into storyteller mode yet again to introduce the first song, telling us the band, "just did a live session on the BBC and they asked us to play some Christmas songs. We don't really know any, and we like very few, so we settled on this one and learned how to play it in about an hour. It worked out nicely." And with that the band, with Invie leading the way at the piano, launched into a forlorn version of the Vince Guaraldi classic "Christmas Time Is Here," made famous by "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It was wonderful rendition, if a bit sad for the spirit of the season. The set ended with an inspired version of "Bright Bright Bright" which sent all in attendance home swooning after a performance by a truly singular band who are clearly at the top of their game right now.
Critic's Bias: I'm a big fan of Dark Dark Dark, but regrettably haven't seen them since they opened for Rural Alberta Advantage in January at this same venue, so I haven't heard a lot of their new material played live yet.
The Crowd: It didn't quite sell-out (I think there were 20 tickets or so left at the door), but I can't imagine fitting a whole lot more people in the Cedar.
Overheard In The Crowd: Other than a few inappropriate interjections by some girl while Invie was trying to tell a story, not much, as the large crowd was entirely respectful of the band and their music.
Random Notebook Dump: I hope that Brute Heart garnered some new fans from their rousing 35-minute opening set. It was an innovative, experimental performance that really impressed everyone around me, myself included.
Say The Word
Something For Myself
All The Things
In Your Dreams
Wild Goose Chase
Christmas Time Is Here (Vince Guaraldi)(Encore)
Bright Bright Bright (Encore)