Langhorne Slim at Lincoln Hall 8/24/11

I’ve always thought of Langhorne Slim as a singer-songwriter above all else. He writes heartbreaking and uplifting songs about love that hit the mark equally well, and his voice can tear right through your soul. So, I was a bit surprised about thirty seconds into the first song when he jumped up on the drum set and the amps. Where was the sweet, softspoken guy I assumed was behind all these great songs, and who the hell is this guy rocking and rolling all over the stage?

What surprised me most was the showmanship involved in the performance. I don’t want to get into a huge hyperbolic thing here, but it was seriously like he was channeling the spirit of some of the great R&B singers of the 60’s. There’s one name in particular that I’m thinking of, but I won’t say it because it would be sacrilege (But he sang a song about a “Dock” that you might know). There was something spiritual in the room, and if Langhorne was the preacher, then we were the congregation. The sermon involved the rough and tumble trials that we go through in our lives, and I think all of us could relate to the message.

I never would have thought that the band was going to be SO good. After hosting them at Handwritten Recording to do a song, I got the idea that they were something special, but in front of a big audience, they just go balls out and deliver the goods. Especially fun to watch was David Moore on keys/banjo. Rather than tickling the ivories, he bangs them into submission and forces out the sound he desires. The same goes for his banjo-playing, which looks more like something so blurry it could be something you half remember from a drunken night many years ago.

If you’ve ever wondered what George Harrison would look like with a curly fro and a nose ring, look no further than Jeff Ratner on bass. Not many bands feature the upright bass anymore, and Jeff plays so well, you’d be hard pressed to think of a band that he wouldn’t be able to contribute to. Playing the smallest drum kit I’ve seen on a live stage in a long time, Malachi DeLorenzo does more with very little than most guys with a Neil Peart-size set could accomplish.

One of the biggest highlights from the show was during the song “Past Lives” when Langhorne came out into the audience. It’s not completely unexpected for a performer to come out, but it’s always fun to see. There seemed to be a large group of people who were especially excited, and he paid them a special visit. Stuff like that, audience connection, call and response; all these great things that performers used to do that indie rock guys think is lame can totally make the difference between a decent show and a great show. And it’s caring enough about your fans to give them the show they deserve that separates bands like this from the also-rans.

Was it worth the wait since I first attempted to see the band back in ’09 when they opened for Josh Ritter? I think it was. The band kept playing, much longer than I thought they would, and they could have gone all night if they wanted. The audience was excellent for this show (other than a couple of the “over-excited” people that just can’t control themselves-hint: lay off the booze). It’s great to see a show with a group of people who love the band.

If I had one quibble, and it’s a minor one, it would be that the show should have ended with “Blown Your Mind.” I think it was originally intended that way, but the crowd DEMANDED more, and the band obliged. That track “Blown Your Mind” is such a perfectly crafted tune, that to go out with that one would be just magical. Oh well. Next time…