The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
With Fear of Men and Ablebody
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Kip Berman really must have wanted to take his new songs on the road. On a rainy Tuesday night at the Triple Rock, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart frontman introduced a completely revamped lineup and a batch of shimmering numbers from Days of Abandon, which comes out in a couple weeks. A modest turnout greeted the act known for a shoegaze-meets-the-Smiths mix, suggesting that their early buzz has died down quite a bit, but those new tracks threaded throughout the 55-minute set sounded fresh and inspired.
Berman took to the stage alone and started the show with a solo take on the plaintive new song, "Art Smock," reinforcing the fact that this project is indeed driven by his singular creative vision. The band (comprised of longtime Pains' guitarist Christoph Hochheim and his brother Anton [from openers Ablebody] on drums, Jacob Sloan on bass, and Fear of Men's Jessica Weiss on keys/vocals) quickly joined Kip as they tore into another new number, "Until the Sun Explodes." The band's latest tracks expand on Berman's songwriting style, as his wistful lyrics blended fluidly over jangly, '80s-era guitar riffs, building to crescendos during catchy, anthemic choruses.
The fresh lineup sounded tight throughout the set, while consistently guided along by Berman's familiarity and creative ease with Hochheim, as their guitars continually locked together. The sound was certainly there, but the band didn't fully grasp the raw emotions of the numbers themselves, so it was up to Berman alone to deliver their poignant sentiments. "Heart In Your Heartbreak" was reworked a bit as a result, but lacked the towering swell of the original.
"We have a 26-hour drive to Vancouver ahead of us," Berman announced reluctantly, "So we're just trying to make this feeling last as long as possible." That exuberance injected the new songs with a lively spirit, as the lush harmonies of "Kelly" filled the club, and the pop buoyancy of "Simple and Sure" echoed Bowie's classic, "Modern Love." The few fans who turned up on Tuesday appeared to have already formed a connection with many of these new songs.
Weiss did a fine job replacing erstwhile Pains' vocalist/keyboardist Peggy Wang, and her vocals shined brightly on "Life After Life." Of all the mostly untested material played during the set, "Eurydice" resonated the most, as the pulsating track built to a dynamic, glorious chorus that was awash with guitars and a vibrant optimism. The main set ended with two of the best tracks in the Pains' catalog, "This Love Is Fucking Right!" and their titular anthem with its unifying chorus of "We will never die." But as Berman and Weiss sang those lyrics it was a bittersweet moment, as Wang's absence from the band stood in stark contrast to the communal nature at the heart of the song.
After the briefest of encore breaks, Berman and the band returned, with Kip announcing sheepishly after thanking the crowd, "Sorry we don't have any records to sell you. But it's all about the music and not about the commerce, right?" The slow-burning new song, "Coral and Gold" followed, before Berman took one last opportunity to speak to the crowd, while prolonging their inevitable car ride. "My dad came to the show last night without telling me, and it was sold-out, so he left. Weird dads. Weird nights." And after a lively version of "Everything With You," Berman quickly left the stage to head to the bar, bracing himself for the long drive ahead of them.
Personal Bias: I first fell for Pains at the 2009 Pitchfork Festival, and have enjoyed both of their Triple Rock shows (especially their 2011 local live debut with Twin Shadow). Hopefully, they return after the new record is released -- and remember to play "Higher Than The Stars" next time.
The Crowd: A small turnout for a rainy/snowy Tuesday, but they were supportive.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Take our pain away," a clever reference to both the weather and the band.
Notes About the Opener: While I sadly missed Ablebody, Fear of Men from Brighton, U.K. delivered a wonderful opening set. Weiss' vocals were pure and fragile, while her guitar blended fluidly with the Smiths-like sound of guitarist Daniel Falvey. The young quartet just released their debut record, Loom, earlier in the week, and were keen on sharing a majority of those songs with the receptive crowd. Their simmering, shoegazy sound set the mood perfectly for the headliners, and hopefully the group returns to Minneapolis on a headline tour of their own after we've had more of a chance to connect with their stirring songs.
Until The Sun Explodes
Heart In Your Heartbreak
Simple And Sure
Young Adult Friction
Life After Life
This Love Is Fucking Right!
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Coral And Gold
Everything With You
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