Review: 2017-12-31 - The Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ
New Year’s Eve? Last day of the year, one I usually reserve for staying home and avoiding too much interaction with the world outside my bubble. But 2017 was a different kind of year for me, for my family, for this band that I truly love.
If you don’t know, I am a proud brother of Red. I’m sure our other brother has a moment like mine when I knew he was going to do something big. Mine was when he played Glycerine on the piano in our living room when he was 16. I can still hear every note, and believe I shed a tear as it was played. Nonetheless, I can imagine the rest of our beloved band’s family and friends have similar moments. To witness their rise over the years, but THIS year has been nothing short of assuring our confidence in those moments. And even the fans, old and new, who have said “these guys”-- you too knew it. It was this that motivated me to venture out, on a night I usually stay in, to affirm the wonder that was 2017, to celebrate the success of a group that is making music that I can’t get enough of.
I listened to the first two nights from home, hoping the song I most wanted to hear, maybe several, wasn’t played. Shake You Loose and Remedy are songs I love, so when I heard them on Saturday I was a little bummed, but I still had hope for my Jam. My fiancé and I did a little pregame at home with a friend and got excited when we hopped in our Uber to head downtown. When we got to The Crescent Ballroom we were a little surprised to see how packed it was, but also how many nerds had pulled out all of the stops in dressing Electro Funk. Side note, I thought we looked pretty fly ourselves.
We chatted with a few nerds I’ve never met, I missed a bunch of you. (Sorry, I usually try to lay low and admire my brother and his mates.) Brandishing my “all access” wristband we entered ready to dance. I avoided the Green Room prior to the first set, but was fortunate enough to say hello to my sister-in-law prior to the show’s start. I needed to get our spot, Red side of course... The energy was palpable, the floor was as packed as I’ve ever seen at Crescent, lots of love and laughing. And then they were on stage.
The notes began to ring out and the song I begged Red to play was seemingly being sung to me. Slip and Squander has become my favorite of late and was the one I had hoped for, and it delivered. I’m a bit of a sap so I may have shed some happy tears watching my brother sing this one. The way the guys pull the lyrics together with their signature sound is one of the reasons I love the music they give us. Of course this made me happy, but even more so, excited for the rest. I had been thinking for weeks that we’d hear some new music this run, now I was ready to hear it!
After Slip, Windmill got my electro funk dancing shoes moving. I’ve thought for a while that this is an underrated song. I love the bass in this one, and the throw back sound of the guitar and subtle drum lines, it’s such a well put together song. At 14ish minutes I felt this was an early heavy hitter to a big night. It’s one that I love to dance to, Brian’s riffs and the complementary keys take me back to those Dead shows I got lost in, while being ever present in the unique music being tossed my way. All I could do is Smile Smile Smile! About 6 minutes in, that’s when the melting began. Not being a musician, I don’t understand how these guys read each other so well... so in sync. Can I just pause? How have I not yet noted Jordan’s sweet new cut? Straight sexy, am I right? Nice work, my brother! Also, while I’m on a tangent, the guys vocals have been so notably good this year! They have always had to elevate their sound to play the smaller venues and now have equipment that emphasizes it, ugh, soooo good! Alas, I digress.
Hey Nerds... trance much? Dance much!!! In the Eyes of Thieves was killer. I really like the contrast this song had within the set. What I think I like most is how Jordan, Brian, and Red have a sound going where I can hardly distinguish the instruments, but how Cam stands out at points to hear his influence, perhaps it’s just me, but I think this is his Jam. I found myself really pulled in with his playing, it stood out to me more than ever tonight. Another side note: biggest let down of the night is that I didn’t get to meet Cam... sorry, brother, soon come. At about 17 minutes this was the big peak of the set for me. I was still believing NEW music was coming! But I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. I was already light headed...
Anyone who knows me knows I love the Dead, a bunch of shows in my youth, when I was probably too young to really appreciate what I was experiencing, but damn I love it! How is it that my brother can KILL Feel Like a Stranger sooooo hard??? Hats off to Brian with those Jerry riffs, good LORD!!! This song was the FIRE of this set to me. This actually was one of the moments in the night where I felt the entire room was on the same page. Groovy grooves pushing us all into a shared moment and experience.
Wait... what song is this? They have played some covers I didn’t know before... who’s song is this? No shit? NO SHIT!! A new one! Honestly my dancing was on pause to try and listen. There is nothing like standing in front of your favorite band when they debut a new song, let alone TWO? Lovesick Melody > Soil was my expected unexpected pleasure of the night. All kinds of changes in the music, Cam stands out, Jordan throws it down at so many points in these two, Brian and Red are at times indistinguishable in their playing. Woof!! Can’t wait to hear what they do with these two songs! So glad I was there!
Ok, time to catch my breath! I know, we have an all access pass but I don’t want to bear down on the guys. So I went out front to have a smoke, took about 10 minutes to even get there, thank goodness for candy from a stranger for the long slow walk. Then a text from my sis saying to come say hi, so we did. Got to talk with my brother, to thank him for Slip (even if it wasn’t just for me lol.) I didn’t see the other guys. I’ve considered Jordan and Brian to be family for a handful of years now so I missed out on that, and I had hoped to introduce myself to Cam, but it’s a hometown show and these are heroes to more than just me. Thanks to Red for making it a point to see me and Charity.
Gotta run... position to the next set! Steak Sauce... I’m not sure the reason this song has yet to be really explored, but everyone (excluding our vegan friends) will enjoy. I mean who doesn’t love a good steak?
Note the spaces? You should. Lol, I’m just kidding! I love the enthusiasm and we love Salamander Song! My fiancé loves this song and danced on another level, given my level was pretty much knee movements at this point. She was killing it the whole way home!! This song cannot disappoint! Again, vocals on this were amazing!
Jesus, what time is it? Energy continues to rise... I think it’s about 11:40ish. Maybe another? So, I would have never guessed they would play this song, or any Eagles song for that matter, but Those Shoes was a treat. Do I really need to say anything else here? I mean who’d have thought Tears for Fears? This is an impeccable example of making a song one’s own.
Levilan Shores. Again, underrated song. Such great vocals and contrast. Felt a few teases in here... you be the judge. The truth is that these four can play so many options and go any direction at any moment! This is why they are my favorite band! Ugh! Love em!
Holy crap, it’s hot in this building! Need to breathe! Little break but not going anywhere! Give us the E! Space Gadget, great call! It’s one of those songs that feels good. It made me hope that I could dance for longer than the room would be open. Electric Taco Stand speaks for itself and there was still plenty of energy left in the venue to walk into outer space together. It was an incredible night. I’ve never been to a Spafford show that didn’t have me saying wow. New Year's Eve was no exception. More importantly, I could clearly see that mine was not the only wow. All those folks at the block party next door don’t know what they missed. Onto Winter Tour, and of course Red Rocks! See you nerds there!
*Special thanks to Ron Adelberg (@ronskiiiii) for the amazing photographs.
Great write up, amazing night. Agreed on all points. Can't wait for the new songs to get some more play time!
As beautifully written as the music, Geoff!
@Geoff Great writeup! Bummed I didn't get to meet you at the show but there will be more! Thanks for writing this up!