Chicago Drive-In
Pavement Entertainment

No Age live!

| November 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

7th St Entry, Minneapolis
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Age is at that tenuous career juncture where competing contrasts often tear bands apart. No longer scrappy young upstarts, there are certain divergent expectations that can pull in opposing directions. It risks polishing off the tattered, bruising urgency that brought it a rush of critical acclaim, but there’s also the impetus to expand creatively beyond such a limited and restrictive palette. Such maturation inevitably alienates some of the original advocates, and Everything In Between (Sub Pop) reveals compelling shades of such sonic evolution, but at least for the moment, No Age remains very much a niche act. Even with an emphasis on sharper melodocism and brighter pop ambience, No Age is too exuberantly abrasive for widespread appeal, or accusations of softening.

As such, this latest tour finds No Age traversing that difficult terrain balancing those competing ideas. Crammed on the tight stage (slightly smaller than the stage at Empty Bottle), a white sheet fluttered behind drummer Dean Spunt, and held a projected stream of visuals, which appeared to be bleakly abstract color montages and indecipherable static; its makeshift haphazardness, functioned more as a reinforcement of No Age’s essential D.I.Y. idealism rather than conveying any notion of professional stagecraft. From the band’s perspective, it basically announced, “At this point, we know we’re supposed to have cool visuals, but this is all we can afford!” The projected images were totally irrelevant, but from an image standpoint, the set up was essential.

At the same time, the live sound was not a hardscrabble mash of lo-fi discordance and messy harmonics, but lathered up into a thick, layered wash that was both immediate and cavernous. The band, augmented to a trio with keyboardist/noise wrangler William Kai Stangeland-Menchaca, cranked out its most popular tunes from its entire discography with wild, feverish abandon, each song drenched in rich sonic details. Live, Randy Randall’s scratchy, lo-fi guitar blossomed into a dazzling array of ragged, raw tones, and his manic thrashing revealed that he’s still playing with genuine, garage-rock enthusiasm. From the shrapnel shards of feedback punctuating “Fever Dreaming” to the rip saw riff and racy spikes in “Sleeper Hold,” Randall jammed with impressive intensity. He was matched by Spunt’s blocky, speedy drumming that paced the songs with creative nimbleness, even if the timing occasionally slipped. A wild throng of 20-somethings bounced and slammed politely through the set, but really amped up the intensity when the guys ripped through older favorites “Eraser” and “Teen Creeps.” A cover of Black Flag’s “Six Pack” didn’t sound out of place, or like a forced exclamation of punk rock bona fides, and even the sarcastic banter taking shots at boy bands was polite enough to be funny without sounding mean-spirited or cynical. That humble, sincere attitude was evident throughout the performance and will ensure that No Age remains an endearing artist, no matter what direction its music turns.

— Patrick Conlan


Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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