TVD Package Deal: Cass McCombs at the Black Cat, 7/15

Cass McCombs and his band, back lit by a sophisticated ‘Lite-Brite,’ opened with “Buried Alive” from his newly released album Wit’s End, a “cheerful” track where you’re unsure whether he is deep in the ground or profoundly depressed.

“Waking up to the breath of the ore, in the sea of Black/ If you cut a worm in two the other half will grow black /If I’m alive or dead I don’t really care, as long as my Soul’s intact/ Buried Alive/Stinking corpse, I smell but cannot see, you hateful neighbor! /Pride, monomania, everything from Earth, topaz vapor/ Hi-chloridized polyethylene resin lacquered newspaper/ buried alive/maybe I’m wrong/ maybe I’m waking for the day…”

I burrowed through the crowd to the platform and awaited the group-wallowing which I had looked forward to all week. Naturally, I did not expect to have my mood instantly elevated by Cass McCombs. He sings about death and abandoned toys.

I wanted to wallow with McCombs; to be lost in desolate landscapes; curl up next to rotten ex-lovers; and vaguely recall biblical references. And I received that to some degree. Unfortunately the light installation separated the audience from his lyrics, shadowing the faces on stage so that by the time they reached, County Line and Cass uttered, “You never even tried to love me /what did I have to do to make you want me?” I felt nothing.

Cass McCombs – The Lonely Doll

The anticipated ache was lost, and I cannot fully identify the culprit. They played a large amount off of Dropping the Writ (2007) with the most compelling being “Equinox” which thrust some needed excitement into the evening.

I adore the writing, which is what brought me to the show, and Cass’ voice sounded lovely in a typically unforgiving venue, but the songs drained me. There were creative and entertaining solos by each band member, most notably by the keyboardist, but he could not save the energy zapping power of their performance.

Although it sounded sweet and pure, the melancholy permeated the entire show. I may have showed up unprepared for that sort of landslide but my desire to lie down overwhelmed my sense of awe of Cass McCombs’ talent.

Kill the lights.

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  • SH

    I really liked “The Lonely Doll”, although I can only imagine how hypnotic and sedative the experience would have been in person. The urge to curl up under my desk at work was almost overwhelming, a feeling, in all fairness, probably not owing entirely to the otherworldly powers of the song. 

    Excellent review. The music is certainly beautiful and touching, but should perhaps be listened to only in intense sunlight? 

  • Pascale

    His renditions of Harmonia and Morning Shadows were both incredible performances! But I can definitely see that if you are not a die-hard fan of his it could get old quickly. 


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