Review: The Dear Hunter at The Loft in Atlanta, GA - 10/10/15
All three venues were humming with people. This was my first time going to a show in one of the parts of the complex that includes Center Stage, Vinyl, and The Loft - the latter being our destination for the night – and it was clearly a lively Saturday night in Atlanta with shows going on at all three spots. Winding up the stairs that give truth to the name of The Loft, my girlfriend and I pass through the ticket booth with the scrawled words on the light up board “The Dear Hunter - $20” (I’ll try to keep my fandom contained, no promises).
The Dear Hunter is the progressive rock outfit captained by Casey Crescenzo. Formed in 2005, the band’s releases include four albums in the concept structure of “Acts I-IV” (with IV having just recently come out – album review forthcoming); “The Color Spectrum”, a collection of 9 EPs comprised of 4 songs each that are reminiscent of each EP’s namesake color; “Migrant,” which captures a more personal element; and “Amour and Attrition,” a symphony arranged by Casey. The scope and diversity of these records is impressive in its own right, not to mention that they’ve been put together in just 10 years. I’m always a sucker for concept albums so the Acts have a special place in my listening rotation, but the entire discography makes the cut for my minimalist iTunes library on my phone.
Opening up for The Dear Hunter were CHON and Gates. The couple songs we caught at the end of Gates’ set made me regret missing the preceding ones. It isn’t terribly often I see the first band on a bill bringing that kind of energy to a set, but they were killing it. CHON followed up with a great set of their own bringing some truly technical material to the stage. Even though it was largely instrumental, their technical ability and stage presence made for a really fun set to watch. I hadn’t heard of either of these groups before the show, but they would have been a great show themselves and I’ll certainly check them out if they tour around here again.
As much as I enjoyed the first two acts, I still got that thrilled feeling as the lights dropped and the members of The Dear Hunter took their places that this is why I was there. Olivia, my girlfriend, had just finished saying she hoped they played Wait, one of the heavier numbers off of Act IV, when they fired into that track to kick off the show. I’ve been to six or seven shows that they’ve played and this was one of the best crowds I’d seen for them and it was clear from the first note. If it wasn’t a sold out crowd, you could have fooled me, because the energetic atmosphere was present in everyone in the room.
I didn’t have to wait long to hear one of my wish-list songs either when they glided from the groove of The Thief, through the ambient notes of the interlude, and into the bombastic first lines of Mustard Gas. One of the things that I love so much about their music, both recorded and live, is the connective tissue between songs. The first several songs on Act II are all strung in together as essentially one piece of music, which makes it even more exciting to hear the parts of the new tracks that hearken back to some of those familiar chord progressions and themes as in the Bitter Suite IV and V, which came up soon after in the set.
The set calmed a bit, with the music finding its way into Things That Hide Away before beginning to build intensity again with Misplaced Devotion, two tracks from The Color Spectrum. These two wove together really well and then seemed like there was a tease of the chord progression from Tripping In Triplets to round out the showings from the middle of that same album.
The guys in the band have always had an entertaining stage presence in their movement during the shows and their personalities when talking to the audience. Casey was in rare form though, verbally slaying the hecklers in the crowd who seemed to be demanding certain songs come up next on the set list. He has always exhibited a more personal touch in audience interaction than the standard “hey (city name) how is everyone?” kind of stuff, which makes for a much more engaged audience throughout the set. He then introduced the next couple songs as some more new ones with Waves and A Night On The Town prior to swinging back into Act II with Smiling Swine.
Closing out the set was a strong rendition of Home, a song that regularly rouses a great response from the crowd, inviting them into the backing vocal line, making for one of those surreal experiences when everyone in the room is singing along, echoing the reverbed chorus from the album and bringing it to life. And as great a closer as Home can be, having it wander into the familiar atmospheric intro for The Church and The Dime, got me – and seemingly everyone else – amped up even more as the opening measure when the full band explodes to life. Somehow, even more enthusiasm surfaced for the gang vocal lines in the chorus of this number as the set wrapped up and the band stepped off stage.
Having heard Casey say before that he didn’t like doing encores, I didn’t expect a return to the stage, so when they did come back out, it was with the excitement that encores should have, that has been lost with so many bands planning to just leave the stage for a minute before coming back out like it’s a surprise. The front man remarked on this, joking about satisfying the egos of the band while telling us that we were getting three more songs, starting with some disco. After getting some appropriate lighting, they dove into King of Swords, off of Act IV, a fun and energetic way to get the encore set going. That led into Where The Road Parts, which is a great follow-up to The Church and The Dime in a set, and finally closing out the show with Whisper, the lone showing from Migrant for the evening. I wouldn’t have thought of Whisper as a closer, but it did a great job of wrapping up a fantastic evening of music.
The drummer for the band is Casey’s brother, Nick Crescenzo, who is one of my favorite drummers to listen to and watch. His play style is deceivingly complex, working in accents in odd places and dropping out certain expected notes, while still laying down a solid groove. There’s nothing overbearing about the intricacy in his drumming, but when I’ve started trying to learn some of his parts, I wind up scratching my head for a while before I’m able to fall into some of the more complex bits. Even after listening to it so many times, there are nuances I miss until I start trying to play it myself. Given all that, I was really stoked to get to meet him briefly after the show and get his signature.
Of the several times I’ve been to a Dear Hunter show, this was one of my favorites. It’s great to see them headlining because they get to do some more fun things with their set list than when they’re opening, not to mention they get a lot more stage time, so if this tour or an upcoming one is traveling anywhere close to you, I can’t recommend enough that you check it out. The Dear Hunter not only crushes their material live, but they find ways to bring new dimensions to it and fully utilize the medium of live performance to create a great concert environment and put on a memorable show.
The Old Haunt
The Bitter Suite IV and V: The Congregation and The Sermon in the Silt
Things That Hide Away
A Night On The Town
The Church and The Dime
King of Swords
Where The Road Parts