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Sunday, 16 October 2011 21:25

Concert review: Blind Pilot soars above Brett Dennen at the Pageant, Saturday, October 15

Concert review: Blind Pilot soars above Brett Dennen at the Pageant, Saturday, October 15 Ben Mudd
Written by Will Kyle

At the Pageant last night, lead singer and guitarist of Blind Pilot, Israel Nebeker, made the audience wonder why his band wasn't the headliner. Fans of Nebeker's dulcet vocals and introspective lyrics crowded the pit and swayed as "Oviedo" opened Blind Pilot's set.

Nebeker's light acoustic guitar bled into full-band instrumentation as Ryan Dobrowski's brushed drums led the charge. Multi instrumentalist Kati Claborn's backing vocals lent the song a countrified aspect apart from Blind Pilot's 2008 studio version. During the second verse, Dave Jorgensen's trumpet blared like a train heading out of the mist of Nebeker's hometown of Astoria, Ore.

On "Go On, Say It," Dobrowski's drums were too loud in the mix and drowned out most of Nebeker's and bassist, Luke Ydstie's early-song harmonies. But soon the problem was fixed and the double kick bass drum returned to its proper place as vibraphone player Ian Krist's felt mallets rang out against cold metal.

Nebeker introduced "Two Towns From Me" as a song about his hometown. Claborn and Nebeker's harmony shined as they sang, "Feeling wheels on my old road, feeling bought for what I sold. I had a dream you were two towns from me... ." The audience turned inward as Jorgensen smiled beneath a swathe of blonde, bed-addled hair, pointed his trumpet at the microphone and flooded the bridge with a country-jazz inspired solo as he bopped along on his tip-toes.

"The Colored Night" featured doo-wop drums and stabs of electric guitar. Nebeker stood before the microphone like a 1950's country star and Claborn's banjo sauntered beneath the mix before the chorus exploded like a box of fireworks thrown on a bonfire.

"Half Moon," from the recently released "We Are The Tide" pleased fans with its stutter-step drums and thoughtful, yet subtle, life-affirming lyrics. Jorgensen transferred to a harmonium and conjured a warm bed as Nebeker sang, "It's not hard to live like a ghost. I just haunt all that I've wanted and leave what I don’t." The crowd mouthed the words as the song's infectious chorus unfolded like a ream of expensive silk. The boyish, smile-smeared Jorgensen switched back to trumpet for a solo before a band-wide, a-cappella bridge.

The audience let out a happy sigh as an up-tempo version of "The Story I Heard" came un-tethered from Nebeker's acoustic guitar and swirled around the venue. Nebeker shouted, "Oh, no I cannot tell," and Dobrowski added cymbal flares over chugging, brushed drums as Krist's beaming vibraphone pumped variety into the track. "I Buried A Bone" offered up subdued harmonies and transitioned the show to a lower register.

Nebeker introduced Jorgensen's harmonium and told the audience the band discovered the instrument at a friend's house while on a tour stop in New York. Nebeker and the rest of Blind Pilot wrote "New York" around the instrument's singular hum. The song creaked and built like an elderly man pushing out his chair to greet the day. Nebeker's pastoral lyrics contrasted with the urbanity of the city as the instrumentation filled in the emotional gaps. Dobrowski's floor tom pushed the sentiment of the song without bursting the bubble of the harmonium's swell. In a brilliant turn, Nebeker sang, "Don't keep me like you have me. Don't kiss me like you don't."

Fan-favorite, "One Red Thread" was played with wondrous fidelity, dark harmonies and impressive tempo shifts, moving from a stampede on the verses to the dreamy, drop-time choruses.

Blind Pilot thanked the audience and closed with "We Are The Tide." Claborn moved over to the drums and excitedly banged along with Dobrowski on his floor tom. The song's nigh-Latin influenced instrumentation played well live even if the song resides well outside of Blind Pilot's introspective and thoughtful character.

After Blind Pilot, the crowd wanted more from Nebeker and crew and nothing from headliner Brett Dennen. Nonetheless, Dennen eventually came on stage and played a respectable set despite battling a cold and losing his already raspy voice. His overly histrionic "Lover Boy" set featured "Little Cosmic Girl," "Dancing At A Funeral," "Darling Do Not Fear," "San Francisco," "Can't Stop Thinking About You," and "Queen of the West Side."

Ultimately, the night belonged to Blind Pilot. Nebeker and the rest of Blind Pilot proved to St. Louis they deserve a headline tour of their own. Here's hoping they get one soon.

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