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Review: Silversun Pickups and Bad Books

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The Wellmont Theatre hosted two rocking bands on Sunday night.

Review: Silversun Pickups and Bad Books

Like most people that listen to Silversun Pickups, I'm sure the song that got them hooked on the band was their first big single "Lazy Eyes" off their first full-length album Carnavas. I first heard it in high school. The song just has this pull to it that I was immediately drawn to. It floats along slowly, seemingly going nowhere, until this amazing burst of sound and singer/guitarist Brian Aubert's screaming vocals come in almost halfway through the song. It comes out of nowhere and just punctuates everything in such a marvelous way.

I've followed the band ever since, but didn't really stay with their newest album Neck of the Woods (although I enjoyed it when listening to streams around its release). That's why seeing the band last Sunday night at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ almost felt like seeing something past my time. Armed only with material in my head from their first two albums, I really couldn't get a full grip on the new stuff like some of the diehards around me that were belting out all of the words to all the songs.

That's not to say it wasn't an enjoyable night. Bad Books, the collaboration between Kevin Devine and Andy Hulls of Manchester Orchestra, opened the evening with a great set full of material from both of their albums. Devine and Hulls are both wonderfully personable on stage, whether it was the band proclaiming they were Silversun Pickups before they started or belting out Counting Crows lyrics while tuning their guitars. Their voices complement each other incredibly well while performing, and they both are incredibly lively performers. There's something about hearing Andy Hulls belt out a lyric that feels therapeutic. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's how it felt. I hope these guys get to collaborate more with Bad Books, because it's too good to stay just a side project.

Silversun Pickups played 15 songs in total in their set (six from their first two albums and nine from Neck of the Woods). I selfishly wanted to hear a set that was just a bit more diverse, but it almost felt like I was hearing their new stuff for the first time again. Not a bad way to go into it.

Aubert's voice is wonderfully recreated on stage, even if it was a touch overpowered by the instruments around it. The way he sings and the sly smirk he wears almost gives off a devilish quality to his performance, which I really dug. The band occupies a large stage with plenty of room for Aubert to roam, a Chris Guanlao's drum kit was on an elevated platform, bassist Sarah Negahdari (filling in for Nikki Monninger who is on maternity leave) had her section on the left side of the stage and Joe Lester had his own station for his keyboards. The production behind it (extensive lighting and plenty of fog) really add a strong aesthetic to a show that already rocks.

Aubert didn't do too much talking, but when he did, he proved to be pretty charismatic. He explained how much they love the Montclair Theatre and how much feces their bass player is covered in because of her baby girls. He talked for quite a bit both times he interacted with the crowd, and it was a nice break from the music.

The music itself was quite sharp. This is a seasoned group, and they definitely know what they are doing on stage. The biggest reactions from the crowd came from their more recognizable songs like "Little Lover's So Polite," "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)" and "Panic Switch" (which turned the crowd into a bit of a frenzy). Their encore consisted of three songs: two new ones ("Busy Bees" and "Out of Breath") and one of their best off Carnavas in "Well Thought Out Twinkles." That was preluded by a short intro to one of their earliest songs "Kissing Families," and the transition into that was pretty cool. 

But the crown jewel for me (and I think everyone else) was "Lazy Eyes." It was as powerful live as I could have hoped for.

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Just seeing that song was worth the price of admission, but the whole show itself was definitely worthwhile. This is a band that has grown since the days of "Lazy Eyes," and even if they haven't maintained that same sound, there's still enough of it present to keep people like me that still can't get enough of Carnavas invested.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see your favorite bands and artists live this summer!

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