Midlake deliver a stirring set at the Cedar
It seemed rather fitting that it started to storm just before the Midlake show at the Cedar on Tuesday night, for their serene, tranquil songs (and those of opener Jason Lytle) just sound better with the rainfall. Even though their set-up was radically different (Midlake are touring as a 7-piece, while it was just Lytle and his guitar and drum machine on stage), both bands delivered stirring, deeply affecting sets that made it worthwhile to everyone that made it out on the inclement evening.
Lytle, the former Grandaddy frontman, opened the night with a set of delicate, placid songs that were a blend of new material and older classics from his former band. He started with "Sarah 5646766," a hidden gem from Granddaddy's 2000 tour-only album The Windfall Varietal, before delivering a stunning and stripped down version of "Yours Truly, The Commuter" that was one of the definite highlights of his set. Lytle has a new album he's been working on, and he played a couple of lovely songs from the "potential list," "Hang Town" and "Young Saints." The entirely appropriate "Protected From The Rain" followed, before Lytle closed the night with two tracks from The Sophtware Slump, a gorgeous version of "Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)" and "Underneath The Weeping Willow" that finished his brief but riveting set strongly. Lytle has a singular, engaging voice and style, and seeing this performance made me realize just how much I miss the subtle splendor of his former band.
Headliners Midlake filled the small Cedar stage with both performers and instruments during their marvelous 90-minute set. The band is performing as a 7-piece on this tour, and those extra musicians really helped flesh out the band's stately songs, giving them an extra edge as well as filling out their sound potently. After a lengthy intro that found the band settling in to the sound of the room, the delicate opening strains of "Winter Dies" washed over the crowd. The set drew pretty evenly from both their stellar new record The Courage Of Others, and their 2006 breakthrough The Trials Of Van Occupanther, with all songs receiving a rapturous reception from the enthusiastic audience. Vocalist Tim Smith was seated during the opening track, but quickly arose for the rousing "Children Of The Ground," one of the early highlights of the set, which was quickly followed by an exquisite "Young Bride." The sound in the small room was stellar and true all evening, and Smith quickly thanked the crowd gathered there, saying "There's a lot of you. This is good for us" with a knowing smile. Their moving music was likewise good for all of us in attendance.
The band dedicated a delicate version of "Fortune" to their openers (which also included former Czars frontman John Grant), before unleashing a formidable, four-guitar version of "The Horn." The band really hit their stride at this point, experimenting a bit on a long, instrumental intro that led into "Roscoe," which was incredible and lush in the live setting, as was "Acts Of Man," and "Rules, Ruling All Things." The band joked how they went for a jog along the river today, and how it was quite hot, but suggested we should come to Texas in a month and see how we feel. "Core Of Nature" featured a lively, extensive jam that really found the band losing themselves in the spirit of the moment. "Bring Down" and a moving version of "Head Home" closed out the main set, before Smith explained that they weren't going backstage before their 'encore,' instead remaining onstage for the tender set closer "Branches" that finished the night beautifully. Both Midlake and Jason Lytle know how to craft poignant songs, and their talents were on full display before a responsive and admiring crowd Tuesday night at the Cedar.
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