Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Live Shows: Letters to Cleo and Weakened Friends, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA 11/19/16

Letters to Cleo is the band I've seen more than any other. It's somewhere around 25-30 times by now. This weekend I realized that I've been going to see Letters to Cleo shows for over half my life now, which is just ridiculous. But they're a band that I used to go see multiple times in one week, including a few back to back nights, so when I haven't seen them for 8 years, there's no way I'm going to be missing a show. You add in Weakened Friends as the opener, literally the band I was hoping would open the show, and it's just an added bonus.

I figured rolling into the venue around 8:30 (15 minutes before showtime) would be perfectly fine. Most people there are going to be 35 and up, we have kids, need to get sitters, and all that. It would probably be a rare night out with people getting dinner before the show, so nobody is going to get there until just before Letters to Cleo go on. How many middle aged people will show up early for an opener they don't know? Looks like I forgot how rabidly dedicated the LtC fanbase is, especially after not seeing the band for 8 years. I ended up getting there just as Weakened Friends took the stage and the Paradise was just packed. Ridiculously packed. The great news is that Weakened Friends took the stage to an almost full house. I don't know what percentage of the crowd knew them before they started, but they won over everybody before it was done. Playing in front of a packed and receptive house is much better for any band than the last time I saw them, and Weakened Friends shone. The band members looked like they were having a blast, and songs like "95" and "I Don't" are becoming absolute epics. Granted, for a band that's around a year old four months is a huge chunk of time, but their growth in that time has been almost immeasurable. Expect huge things from them in the next few years.

Next, for the first time in almost 8 years, Letters to Cleo took the stage in their hometown of Boston. It would be almost impossible for them to fuck up a show in front of a crowd this devoted. Of course, LtC have always been an amazing and fun live act. In their time off as an active band, all members have just become such expert musicians that they really are far more tight than they have any right to be. They opened with the usual "Demon Rock" and mostly stuck to the classics. They did squeeze in three songs from their just released (and surprisingly good) EP Back to Nebraska, but mostly stuck to the oldies everyone wanted. They stuck with a setlist that very closely resembled their Live From Boston album (recorded 8 years earlier in the same room), but threw in just enough surprises to keep it fresh. "Get On With It," "Step Back," and "Co-Pilot" were some of my favorite surprises. In fact, "Get On With It" ended a three song mid-set acoustic mini-set with just Kay Hanley and Michael Eisenstein playing, until the rest of the band rejoined for the end of "Get On With It." They also broke out their cover of Scruffy the Cat's immortal "You Dirty Rat." "Here & Now" and "I Want You To Want Me" were played, of course, since they are the biggest hits, after all. Closing with fan favorite "Rim Shak" was the perfect choice. Let's hope this short series of shows is just a warm up for a more active 2017 for Letters to Cleo.

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