civiltwilight.jpg
Dave Lake
Civil Twilight

Friday, March 11

Neumos

It seems appropriate that a band with the word "twilight" in their name would perform most of

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Civil Twilight Performs a Moody Set in Near-Darkness at Neumos

civiltwilight.jpg
Dave Lake
Civil Twilight

Friday, March 11

Neumos

It seems appropriate that a band with the word "twilight" in their name would perform most of their show in near-darkness. Setting a mood is great and all, but it's also nice to see a band while they're performing, particularly one as well-styled as the three gentlemen in Civil Twilight were Friday night at Neumos. The Cape Town, South Africa, trio hit the stage backlit, while white covers on their speaker cabinets served as mini-movie screens, displaying arty, grainy film projections that added to the onstage ambiance. Like the British bands they draw their sound from--U2, Radiohead, Snow Patrol--their moody live show borrowed from those bands too.

Led by singer/bassist/keyboardist Steve McKellar, the band became more illuminated as their set carried on, eventually bathing the band in reds, greens, and blues, but never directly. McKellar's brother Andrew contributed to the vibe by creating a sonic wall with guitar effects which matched his brother's processed vocal sound, and which helped to faithfully recreate the band's songs live--not always an easy task, particularly for a trio. McKellar also took a page from the Page playbook, using a bow on his guitar for several songs, though unlike Zeppelin, he used the effect for subtlety more than power.

The band's set maintained a steady Britpop groove, thanks to the foundation of drummer Richard Wouters, who looked solemn but kept things solid. Steve McKellar segued between playing bass and piano, and eventually the band played through most of their 2009 self-titled debut, including "Letters From the Sky," a rock radio hit from last year.

McKellar addressed the crowd only briefly during Civil Twilight's set, usually to announce a new song--of which there were a handful--or to heap praise on the opening acts. Though he seemed to hide in the shadows for most of the show, McKellar lugged his bass and mike stand down onto the floor of Neumos toward the end of the set, where he sang, eyes closed, surrounded by his fans, who bobbed along in time.

Like their songs, Civil Twilight are polished and professional live, and they put on a well-crafted show. They may not be inventive, but at least they synthesize their influences in a credible way. And if nothing else, they certainly make the girlies swoon. "I love yooou!," one enthusiastic show goer screamed at McKellar between songs. And isn't that what rock & roll is really about, anyway?

BTW: "Civil Twilight" is also the name of a terrific song by the terrific Winnipeg, Manitoba, band the Weakerthans.

Deserving a shout-out: Drummer Wouters, who played the entire set in a stylish blazer.

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