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Those Darlins - Boot and Saddle (Philadelphia) - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

21 October 2013

When Those Darlins were last here in Philadelphia, they were at the tail end of two years of touring for their 2011 album Screws Get Loose and were in the midst of a tour with fellow Nashville greats Heavy Cream (see my review of that show here). Now, almost exactly a year later, here they were again, headlining a brand new venue about the size of the last place they played at and drawing what looked like more people while supporting their excellent new album Blur the Line and with new bassist Adrian Barrera in tow. If slightly bigger crowds (hopefully with each subsequent appearance here) are a sign of things to come for the band, then it is well-earned as the new album is great and their live show just keeps improving.

They opened with the authoritative “Ain’t Afraid,” the new album’s closer (not counting the title track, which is a bonus track on the digital version) and played an hour-long set that consisted mainly of new album gems like “Optimist,” Oh God,” “Western Sky” and rollicking “In the Wilderness” (sung by guitarist Nikki Kvarnes whereas most of their material is sung by fellow guitarist Jessi Zazu). While they played very little from their prior albums (I only counted three songs from Screws, the title track, “Be Your Bro” and the single “Mystic Mind” and nothing from their self-titled debut), there were a few surprise cover songs in store.

Their versions of Alex Chilton‘s “Free Again” and The Velvet Underground‘s “White Light/White Heat” (played as the first song in their sort of encore as they never walked off-stage until they were done) both worked really well. While the former is, at least on paper, a better and more natural fit for the band, they also made the Velvets number sound like one of their own (what any good cover should do) and the nice jam at the end was the icing on the cake. Another surprise and highlight was Nikki taking command of the stage and putting down her guitar while singing the creepy “Night Jogger” (from a split 7” with Those Darlins side project Funstix).

I must say that choice of venue worked really well for the band as well. At times, last year’s Johnny Brenda’s show sounded a little muddy (though it’s also generally a very good sounding venue), but they flat-out sounded incredible at the brand new Boot and Saddle. Between that and their food and drink menu, I am looking forward to going back there ASAP!

I also regrettably missed openers Gambles and Hound.