Concert photos: Arcade Fire and The National at Scottrade Center, Thursday, April 21

KDHX Photographer Joanna Kleine captured The National and Arcade fire at Scottrade Center Thursday, April 21.

All photos by Joanna Kleine.

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Concert photos: Rural Alberta Advantage, Lord Huron and Tall Buildings at the Firebird, Friday, April 22

Fierce thunderstorms and tornado warnings did not deter the crowd that showed up to the Firebird to hear Rural Alberta Advantage. The band was genuinely grateful for the turn out and described St. Louis as warm and welcoming despite the threatening weather. Rural Alberta Advantage certainly did not disappoint the fans that braved the elements to hear them play. Nils Edenloff and his signature voice fronted the band, as Amy Cole added delicate background vocals, and Paul Banwatt did an incredible job filling out the sound on drums. In Tall Buildings and Lord Huron opened the bill with strong sets.

All photos by Kate McDaniel. See more at my Flickr Stream.

Concert photos: Ha Ha Tonka, The Spring Standards and Union Tree Review at Off Broadway, Friday, April 22

Friday night at Off Broadway, a close to capacity crowd was treated to a barrage of sights and sounds translated to energy that passed from person to person like the common cold. Union Tree Review started out the night and edged the crowds excitement into the passion of The Spring Standards.
Excitement was at a boiling point when Ha Ha Tonka took the stage. There were certainly no disappointed faces after the double encores and multiple toasts presented by the Springfield rockers who played to the crowd at every turn. And the crowd in return was accepting of anything that was played.

All photos by Ben Mudd.

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Concert review: Rock & roll tornadoes hit Off Broadway with Ha Ha Tonka and Spring Standards, Friday, April 22

Ha Ha Tonka

Todd Roeth

On Friday night, amid tornado sirens and bouts of torrential down pour, college frat boys, rained-out Cardinal fans and music revelers alike made it to Off Broadway for a whiskey-filled tribute to Missouri roots and southern rock.

Opening for Ha Ha Tonka, the Spring Standards give new meaning to the term “hair band.” With the band members’ locks suggesting a ginger-haired Grace Potter to early ’90s grunge and a white-man afro that could stand up against Dylan’s famous curly mop, the Spring Standards are a small indie band out of New York that creates a sound much bigger than their three-person lineup. They really showcased their talents when they brought out their eclectic mix of interchanging instruments like the melodica and harmonica. My initial apprehension of their song about sharks, aptly named “Sharks” was eased after the song played out much like their others — a storybook song accompanied by diverse instruments and high energy.

The mood of the night was that of camaraderie and jovial enjoyment: Taking shots of whiskey to toasts of the Cardinals, stormy weather and their entry into Billboard’s Top 200, Ha Ha Tonka seemed happy to be back in their home state and playing to familiar faces.

These West Plains, Mo. natives seemed to be enjoying their stop in St. Louis, just as much as the crowd was, maybe even more so. Settling into Off Broadway’s intimate setting, the boys of Ha Ha Tonka were in their element and enjoying every second of it. The band engaged the audience, enticing them to join in on the fun; it is no wonder these small-town Missouri boys have created such a family-like following.

Ha Ha Tonka opened with “The Usual Suspects” off the new album, Death of a Decade. This latest album is a testament to the band’s growing maturity and entry into refined music adulthood. With music that encompasses the sounds of traditional and modern Americana, these southern boys stay true to their roots, while also evolving into a band comfortable with their sound and not afraid to go off into rock-filled tangents or acoustic harmonies.

The band’s Ozark roots really show when Brett Anderson displays his finger picking skills on the mandolin during folksier tunes. “Westward Bound,” a celebratory gospel-sounding tune talking about wasted youth, drips with the excitement of a band finding themselves. The group closed the show with a rambunctious cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” — ending the night on an incredible high note, with lead singer Brian Roberts letting go on his vocals and the band as a whole just letting loose.

Concert photos: the Black Angels, Suuns and Tone Rodent at the Old Rock House, Friday, April 22

The Black Angels made their mark at The Old Rock House Friday night with Suuns and Tone Rodent to back them up and rock it hard.

All Photos by Nate Burrell. See more at my Flickr Stream.

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Concert review: Riding the storm out with the Rural Alberta Advantage, In Tall Buildings and Lord Huron at the Firebird, Friday, April 22

The Rural Alberta Advantage

Everyone knows to seek shelter during a tornado warning, so as soon as the sirens began to wail we took cover at the Firebird to weather the storm with In Tall Buildings, Lord Huron and the Rural Alberta Advantage.

Opening tonight’s show was Chicago’s In Tall Buildings, whose set consisted of a handful of slow to mid-paced tunes, with Erik Hall handling vocal and guitar duties over a rock solid foundation created by bassist Matt Ullery and drummer Quin Kirchner. Hall’s use of a miniature synthesizer and tasteful use of guitar effects during his playing to add atmosphere to the songs are somewhat reminiscent of Meddle-era Pink Floyd or some of the early works of Porcupine Tree. His voice, falling somewhere in between Nick Drake and John Mayer, meshes well with the songs. In Tall Buildings was fine appetizer for the rest of the evening; I hope the band returns to St. Louis soon.

After a delay due to technical difficulties, Los Angeles-based Lord Huron took the stage. The best way to describe this band is to borrow a line from its song “The Stranger” and say that of all the strangers, they’re the strangest that I’ve seen.

The band has a tropical feel that permeates the folk rock tunes, which sound like something Jimmy Buffett would write on an overcast day. Like In Tall Buildings, Lord Huron has a fair amount of complexity to their melodies, which are filled with two and three-part harmonies reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.”

Most of the musicians in the band were working overtime playing one instrument or another, including the occasional use of a Theremin. It was obvious that the musicians enjoy playing together, as they were nothing but smiles as they bounded around the stage, moving in time with the grooves. Due to the delays at the beginning of its set, Lord Huron had to rush through faster than I believe it would have liked. Still, the Angelenos put on one fantastic show and I can’t recommend them enough for anyone who enjoys great music and a fun stage presence.

The Rural Alberta Advantage started its set fairly late due to the technical issues from earlier in the evening, but made up for it with an abundance of energy. True to form, Paul Banwatt pounded the skins with expert precision, Nils Edenloff wailed his head off while playing the keyboards or furiously strumming his acoustic guitar and Amy Cole gave the songs that extra touches that the RAA is known for, playing the keyboards, bass pedals, percussion, glockenspiel and adding fantastic harmonies to Edenloff’s songs of love and loss.

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Concert review: An incendiary and historic double bill at Scottrade Center: The National and Arcade Fire woo St. Louis with baroque, post-punk, art rock, Thursday, April 21

Arcade Fire

On April 21, blazer-wearing, plaid-draped fans filed into the Scottrade Center to witness the National and Arcade Fire test their mettle against arena rock. Both bands were more than up to the task.

The National took the stage behind Dylan’s “Man in Me” (featured in The Big Lebowski). When Dylan rounded the end of the first chorus, lead singer Matt Berninger and the rest of the National, replete with masterful horn section, slid into the quiet opening of “Start a War” from 2007′s The Boxer. As the song hurtled toward climax, the crowd stood awe-struck and forgot about their $10 Bud Lights. The double tap drums of “Anyone’s Ghost” started amidst settling guitar buzz before Berninger bled his baritone into the microphone for a casual hello.

The National rolled through “Brainy,” and into “Blood Buzz Ohio,” which sent the audience spiraling into a state of hand-raised ecstasy, as the post-punk revival sound of bewitching guitar and syncopated drums set a dark tone. Berninger offered a crazy anecdote about a toe injury caused by a kitten and an orangutan that had a fight in his bus bunk.

“I’m Afraid of Everyone,” “Apartment Story,” and “Abel” were delivered with nigh perfect fidelity, ear-popping extended jams and gorgeous tonal accents. On “England,” Berninger descended into the crowd and traversed general admission and up into the seats, all the while not missing a single word. A comically long microphone cable trailed behind him that nearly clothes-lined many attendees, who worked to feed the chord over the heads of their fellow fans. Berninger returned to the stage and finished with delightfully subdued versions of “Fake Empire” and “Terrible Love.”

Next, Montreal’s Arcade Fire, who have not rocked St. Louis since they opened for the Unicorns at the now defunct Rocket Bar, kicked off with a raucously, passionate rendition of “Ready to Start.” Régine Chassagne banged on a second drum set positioned next to tattooed drummer Jeremy Gara. The song’s orchestral scope mingled with baroque images of suburban life displayed on two giant screens placed behind the stage.

During “Rebellion (Lies),” the crowd shouted, “Lies! Lies!” over a powerful and multifaceted chorus. William Butler, brother of lead-man Win Butler, marched the length of the stage furiously beating a drum tom. “Empty Room,” and “Rococo” offered a perfect balance of amped-up energy and casual grace. Chrome and sepia footage of the band layered over images of forlorn suburbia bridged the arena gap between crowd and band.

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Concert review: Arcade Fire and the National make their own kind of arena rock at Scottrade Center, Thursday, April 21

The National

Editor’s note: This will be the first of two reviews of last night’s concert with Arcade Fire and the National. Stay tuned for Will Kyle’s take later this afternoon.

It’s rare to see a dual billing of dynamic rock bands in the current musical climate. The mega tours of previous decades seem fewer and farther between, but last night’s patrons of the Scottrade Center were in for a treat. While bands like the National and Arcade Fire don’t quite possess the same household familiarity as, say, Guns ‘n’ Roses or Metallica, fans of the indie scene were more than familiar.

It was an early start to the evening as the National took the stage at 7 p.m. I think this early start time may have confused many concert-goers as the venue was only perhaps 30% full when the band’s opening number “Start a War” kicked in. By no means are the National a band meant for arena rock, but the band managed to pull it off quite well.

Baritone-voiced front man Matt Berninger was entertaining throughout the set, joking between songs about how exactly it was that he injured his foot (a kitten bite, then an orangutan, later a scorpion). The National’s sound filled the venue nicely as the mix was balanced amongst the chiming and distorted guitars, rhythmic percussion and the two-man horn section. It was a great 60-minute set with highlights of “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and an excellent performance of “Mr. November” that had Berninger out in the crowd (for the second time) with soundmen in tow to carry his mic cable. He walked through the Scottrade’s general admission section, back past the soundboard and up into the seats to visit with the crowd as he sang. It was a spectacle that got a standing ovation that the National truly deserved.

After a 30-40 minute intermission, the lights dimmed again for the main act. The setup was a retro fitting that fashioned the stage to appear similar to that of an old drive-in movie theater. Three large screens were placed above the stage and a large projection screen behind the drummer. “The Arcade Fire Presents” was featured on one screen and “The Suburbs” on the other as the lights dimmed and a short introductory film played.

The band came out to a large crowd response as the film began to wind down and the intro to “Ready to Start,” an upbeat rock number from the band’s Grammy-winning The Suburbs kicked in. It was a great song to open with and following-up with the fan-favorite “Rebellion (Lies)” from 2004′s Funeral made for a fast start to the evening.

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