Last Night: Sparklehorse, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at The Showbox

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SPARKLEHORSE_03.jpg

Click the photo for an audio slideshow. 

Sparklehorse, with Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter
Date: February 14, 2007
Venue: The Showbox
Random Incident: Conversation


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Last Night: Sparklehorse, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at The Showbox

Didja hear DangerMouse has been working with Sparklehorse?

  • Last Night: Sparklehorse, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at The Showbox

  • ">

    SPARKLEHORSE_03.jpg

    Click the photo for an audio slideshow. 

    Sparklehorse, with Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter
    Date: February 14, 2007
    Venue: The Showbox
    Random Incident:Conversation overheard behind me between sets: "Didja hear DangerMouse has been working with Sparklehorse?" "No way!" "Yeah, I wonder if they're gonna call it SparkleMouse or DangerHorse." "Or MouseHorse." "MouseHorse? That's just retarded."

    It's been a long time -- more than five years, in fact -- since Sparklehorse has been seen in this neck 'o the woods. A self-professed recluse, main man Mark Linkous has made no secret of his battles with alcohol, drugs, and crippling depression, and despite the overwhelming beauty of his idiosyncratic, atmospheric recordings, he's been loathe over the course of his 12-year career to bring Sparklehorse's music to the masses.

    But you wouldn't have known any of that from the pleased smile planted on Linkous's face as the lanky singer-guitarist sauntered onto the stage, clad in a black-and-white cowboy shirt and looking rather Dylan-esque (and a bit Dave Grohl-ish, too).

    Opening with "Spirit Ditch" -- from Sparklehorse's 1995 debut, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot -- Linkous led his three-piece backing band (occasionally expanded to four when his guitar tech sat in on lap steel) through a 15-song set that drew from all four Sparklehorse albums. The band alternated between the relatively hushed twang of Sparklehorse's cracked country-rock, and clamorous guitar freakouts that nodded to Linkous's studio wizardry; despite a second guitarist who also manned keyboards and samplers, the band chose to present its material in a straightforward, stripped-back fashion, mostly avoiding attempts to recreate the lush symphonics of "Apple Bed" and "Piano Fire," from 2001's It's a Wonderful Life.

    Kneeling in front of a righteous pedal board, Linkous twiddled knobs and looped parts to create wild sheets of noise, though he tended to reel those excursions in fairly quickly, lest he lose the large crowd that all around me was singing, swooning, and smiling along to Sparklehorse's wondrous, affecting songs. Openers Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter celebrated their homecoming (and Valentine's Day) with a poignant performance that brought the quintet's noirish meditations on heartbreak and loneliness into sharp focus. A few glitches with his guitar rig couldn't prevent Phil Wandscher from unleashing gorgeously ragged solos and tremeloed moodiness, which perfectly complemented Sykes' enthralling, smoky voice as she delivered songs from the band's new Barsuk offering, Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul. Toward the end of the set, Sykes smiled wanly and said, "This one is from back when I still wrote songs about love" by way of introducing "Love Me, Someday."

    But when someone from the crowd handed her a single red rose for Valentine's Day, her grateful expression betrayed a heart that still believes in the power of love, even if it's of the performer/listener variety.

     
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