Divine Fits at Varsity Theater, 4/4/13
Photo By Tony Nelson
With Split Single
Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
April 4, 2013
As soon as word got out that Divine Fits affectionately name-checked Minneapolis in one of their initial singles, "Would That Not Be Nice," there has been a buildup to the moment when Britt Daniel would sing that wistful line live to a local crowd. Unfortunately, the supergroup of sorts -- comprised of Daniel (Spoon), Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs), Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks), and Alex Fischel -- kept us holding on as they extensively toured the rest of the country, but held off on a Twin Cities visit for many long months since July's release of A Thing Called Divine Fits.
But all of that was rectified and then some last night as Divine Fits brought their spirited, lovelorn live show to a sold-out Varsity Theater. The exuberant 70-minute set featured a run-through of all the tracks from their excellent debut, a brand new song, and some choice covers. It was nice -- just like Britt had promised us.
As Fischel settled in behind the keyboards, an indoor snowfall playfully mocked Minnesota music fans who are over-ready for spring. Daniel, Boeckner, and Brown eventually joined him, adding in their ethereal sonic textures to the moody, slow-burning opener "Neopolitans." The fuse was officially lit during the explosive end to "Baby Get Worse," with Britt, who started off playing bass and frequently switched between that and guitar throughout the set, taking over on lead vocals as Dan flailed away on guitar. Both guys eventually turned their backs to the crowd and locked in with Brown, bringing the song to a fitful, discordant finish.
Daniel led the classic rock-ish ode to dessert and love, "Like Ice Cream," which found Fischel on guitar for the bristling first half of the song before heading back behind the keys. Britt then addressed the crowd after a warm ovation. "A friend of mine was on tour in Minneapolis, while I was stuck writing in L.A. I was feeling the pressure, and I thought to myself, 'I would love to be in Minneapolis right now. Would that not be nice?'" And with that, the band launched into the song that had to have helped the show sell out so quick. Daniel even psyched himself and the crowd up as the memorable line approached, saying "alright" in the build-up while encouraging us all to sing along. And indeed, we all joined in full voice with Britt as he sang, "I wish that I was in Minneapolis." The set took off from there.
Photos By Tony Nelson
Dan took off his sport coat before leading the synth-driven "My Love Is Real." He revealed his traditional cut-off black tank-top that he typically wore at Handsome Furs shows. That seemed to free him up to fully launch deep into the dark, brooding number, which had him and the rest of the band smiling as they soaked in the crowd's boisterous response. "I fucking love playing here in Minneapolis," Boeckner genuinely exclaimed. "I can't believe it has taken us so long to play here. It's so nice that you all showed up." A Springsteen-esque version of "Civilian Stripes" quickly followed, as the perfectly-paced set churned on breathlessly.
But the real surprises were just about to start. It was a bit hard to place the funky, textured beat of the next number at first, but as soon as the band locked into the groove and Britt started to sing, it was clear the band were covering Frank Ocean's, "Lost." It was an indelible moment, one that made clear how talented the individual members of Divine Fits are as they fluidly made the song their own, and also gave proof how phenomenally catchy Ocean's "Lost" truly is. The band then busted out a brand new song they have been working on as of late called "Chained." It's a mercurial, Dan-lead number that fits perfectly alongside their previous work, and hopefully signifies that the band has plans to record together again.
"Are you all right going into this one? Do we need a breather?" Dan asked playfully before the group launched into their second surprise cover, Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky." Their version was darker than the original, lead by Fischel's ominous keys and Boeckner's plaintive vocals. But Dan felt the need to lighten the mood a bit after the song, joking, "That was a Carly Rae Jepsen number." Typically, deep cuts from a side-project's debut album would pale in comparison to Petty's classic arena anthem, but the Fits kept the momentum going with a riveting take on "The Salton Sea," which featured both Britt and Dan sharing vocal duties during the simmering, sprawling number.
Photos By Tony Nelson
A rhythmic and pulsing version of "Flaggin' A Ride" quickly followed, and after another heartfelt word of thanks to the crowd, the main set came to a turbulent end with "For Your Heart," which started out as one of the more poppy numbers of the set (even including the Frank Ocean cover), before the band kicked the track into high gear as the song dissolved into a wall of discord and blinding strobe lights, with Britt dropping to his knees as he lost himself in the moment.
A well-earned ovation saw the band off, and the encore break proved to be a short one. Britt mentioned that "This show sold-out faster than any show that we've done so far. And, every sold-out show we bring out a piñata to mark the occasion." And sure enough, they had a Transformer piñata hanging over the stage, and invited a girl from the audience to come on stage to smash it to bits, which proved a bit difficult. Britt and Dan eventually had to throw out candy to the crowd, with Boeckner teasing, "This has tons of PCP in it, just to warn you. If you start freaking out, just eat some oranges, drink some tea, and put on some Van Morrison. That was always my uncle's advice."
After the candy was distributed, a hard-charging version of "What Gets You Alone" kicked off the encore emphatically. "Thank you Minneapolis, for making this a great night," Boeckner said sincerely as the night drew to an end. Britt then lead the way home on an impassioned, engrossing take on "Shivers," which was originally written by Nick Cave's pre-Birthday Party band, the Boys Next Door. It was an emotionally raw number which had both Daniel and Boeckner flailing away on their guitars, not wanting the song or the night to come to an end. But when it inevitably did conclude, Britt justifiably raised his guitar in triumph, having his long-ago wish to be in Minneapolis finally come true, if only for just one night.
Personal Bias: I am a massive Spoon and Handsome Furs fan, and the fact that Daniel and Boeckner formed a band together had me giddy, which made the long wait to finally see them live that much harder to bear.
The Crowd: An odd mix of curious onlookers who obviously just came from Uptown alongside longtime Spoon/Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs fans who want to hear what those guys are up to now.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Have you ever heard of a band called TV On The Radio?"
Random Notebook Dump: Jason Narducy, current bassist in Bob Mould's band, opened the night with his band Split Single. Sadly, Britt Daniel (who plays bass in the band) chose not to play with the group on this night, but the power pop, '90s numbers went over well during their enjoyable set.
Baby Get Worse
Like Ice Cream
Would That Not Be Nice
My Love Is Real
Lost (Frank Ocean cover)
Chained (New song)
You Got Lucky (Tom Petty cover)
The Salton Sea
Flaggin' A Ride
For Your Heart
What Gets You Alone (Encore)
Shivers (The Boys Next Door cover)
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