Jim Morrison keeping his back to the audience during The Doors' performances is legend. A sense of Jim's moody shyness taps into a dark and sexy place. But The Doors didn't have to compete with 4000 other bands that sounded just like them. And even if they did, Jim Morrison had a great ass. The Twilight Sad played a free show at the Memorial Union Terrace Friday night and made me mull all that over in my head and arrive at a conclusion: it's not 1965, kids.
Musically, the band had some interesting twists and turns. Bold, proclamatory crescendos were matched with paired down, atmospheric bars. They own a gruff, bombastic quality similar to the Veils, Joy Division or Guided by Voices. Anyone who has been to Glasgow could feel the city in their songs -- a mix of beauty and ugliness, delicacy and toughness. Regrettably, the strength of their storm was blown apart by their own disenchanting live package.
James Graham's thickly accented rolling R's were militantly rough but were lost behind distorted guitar turned up too loudly. But that wasn't all that was lost. Drummer Mark Devine got a great show but the rest of us just saw the back of some dude who may or may not have been singing.
Devine was the lone worker on the stage, pummeling the drums with all his might and the scowl of a sailor. The mates literally in the shadows on bass and guitar were non-plussed, to say the least. With so many bands fighting for glory these days, the strength of the show and the buzz it builds seems key; it shocks me that such little effort seemed to be put forth.
It was curious to me that one of the only engaging nuances used was Graham beating simultaneously on the kick drum with Devine. Curious because the only band I've ever seen do this was fellow Glaswegians Franz Ferdinand. Alas, as a fellow audience member noted following the show, "Look they are talking to some hoochies -- I guess that's why they came to Madison."