Saintseneca – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/8/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
by Steven Spoerl
Before I left Wisconsin for Brooklyn, I made sure to see one last show: Saintseneca and Murder By Death. The latter had been the band headlining the first major show I’d seen on my own accord and the former had been one of my favorite bands for years and I had yet to see them live. While Murder By Death were undoubtedly impressive, Saintseneca’s live show blew me away. As soon as I heard the band would be headlining a show at Baby’s All Right, I made sure my schedule for the evening was cleared. Once again, the band delivered an extraordinary performance- but not before two opening sets.
Jess Williamson was the first to take the stage and immediately grabbed the audience’s attention with a haunting solo song before inviting her band to join her onstage. While Williamson’s first song had been fairly atmospheric, the addition of the band quickly catapulted that dynamic of her music into territory that felt downright cinematic. Playing nothing but new songs, Williamson and her band made their way through a haunting set of bruised folk songs with a Southern Gothic influence. Impressive, intricate, understated, and incredibly dynamic, it was a spellbinding performance from an artist deserving of a great deal of attention.
Following Williamson’s set was the decidedly more straightforward swing-for-the-rafters anthemic pop of Multimagic. While the band did tend to feel fairly by-the-numbers, they offered enough moments of subversion to both keep things interesting and guarantee an explosion in popularity should they be fortunate enough to find their music placed in the right television (or film) environment. Multimagic played with a great deal of finesse and had some similar structural approaches to their songwriting as the night’s headliners so their spot felt like a perfect lede for Saintseneca.
Currently preparing the release of the follow-up to 2014’s rightfully adored Dark Arc, the band wasted no time in diving into their incredible new material. From the live previews alone, I’d be shocked if their forthcoming record didn’t wind up being one of my favorites of 2015, as the bulk of them managed to expand and refine some of the elements that rendered Dark Arc one of my favorites of last year. Baby’s All Right was the band’s last show of their current tour, so they came to the stage with a considerable amount of practice and it reflected in both the new songs and the old material, which continued to sound remarkable. “Fed Up With Hunger” is one of the only songs to have managed to strike me as spine-tingling on record and that feeling multiplied tenfold.
“Fed Up With Hunger” wasn’t the only song to elicit chills, either, they came in waves as the band progressed through a set that saw them navigating hairpin turns and striking dynamic shifts with ease. Whether they opted for the quiet, acoustic route or the raucous, fuzzed-out intensity that seems to be a welcome hallmark of their newest material, the band fell into a focus that practically disallowed any false moves. Crowd favorites like the excellent “Happy Alone” radiated with life and that vibrancy was reflected by an appreciative audience (one that, unfortunately, did contain a small faction of people that felt inclined to talk over some of the set’s more gentle moments). Saintseneca ended their main set with the same song they’d ended their opening set in Milwaukee with just a few months before- a blistering, feedback-happy number that’s far and away the most intense song in the band’s discography- before being cheered back for an encore.
After a few false starts and a surprising amount of conversation, the band decided to go out with “James”, the incredible closing song from their first album, Last. It felt like an appropriately communal moment to cap off a set that included some incredible banter, sparked more than a few spirited singalongs, and a generally positive atmosphere. Also, if there’s a better way to signify that you’re entering a new era than playing the last song on the first record (one titled Last, no less) as the last song of the last tour before your next record comes out, i’m not sure what it is- but “James” did feel like the perfect selection regardless of trivial extenuating circumstance. While the evening may have had its ups and downs, “James” made sure that it went out in perfect harmony.
Click over to the full photo gallery of the show here and watch some of the evening’s performances in the video below.