Dallas, TX -- Trees Nightclub in Deep Ellum, a renovated warehouse district in "the Big D"'s downtown area. A very spacious and well-laid-out venue to catch the Cranes' intimate, intoxicating show. A sign hangs by the front door, informing visitors that "by order of state law, dancing is not allowed." The doorperson, I was pleasantly surprised to find, was helpful and polite. "Did you bring your camera?" she asked -- I don't know, I was somehow expecting to be given some flack.
Unfortunately, my roommate and I had left the flat just a little too late; as a result, we ended up missing the majority of Rasputina's set. As I entered the club, one of the three women on cellos (I never caught their names, alas) asked the audience, "What's another word for feces?", to which the crowd enthusiastically shouted, "SHIT!!!" Rasputina's last two numbers, which skillfully and gorgeously combined a trio of Cellos with a bassist and a drum-player into a lush aura of sound, made me promise myself to check out more of their work.
A brief intermission ensued; the Cranes' equipment was thoroughly checked, the crowd milled about and mingled peacefully, and then Alison and company took the stage with a gorgeously rendered version of "Everywhere". The night for me had officially begun, and I relished the hold the music on me. And, I hasten to add, on everybody else who was lucky enough to share the experience with me. "Reverie" and "Jewel", two other exquisite numbers, followed -- deeply impressing me, for I was expecting them to open with Population 4 material, and THEN segue into their earlier work.
Alison sported a multi-coloured frilly dress, Jim had his Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds T-shirt, Mark wore a puke-green Levelfive T, and Manu had his groovy holographic glasses (I know I couldn't play drums in those). They played off of each other extraordinarily well, launching into their newer material with aplomb. The sound system was (from my perspective) flawless and professional, as their playing varied from soft and dreamlike ("To Be") to jazzed-up and energetic ("Breeze"). Somewhere in the midst, "E.G. Shining", a rare, earlier track, made an unexpected appearance, much to the delight of a scattered handful of concertgoers. The lighting (which was somewhat sparse, I thought) suddenly became more ethereal and psychadelic. And then -- the icing on the cake. "Sixth of May" followed by an incredible performance of "Far Away". As Mike Dare once wrote, they have definitely hit their stride on this tour.
They concluded their "pre-encore" set with "Adrift", which slowly built in intensity -- and then nearly brought the house down! The smile on Mark's face was the only proof needed that he was happy with his guitar playing -- then again, so was I.
And then -- "l'encore", as Manu would say. Jim and Alison returned shortly with a beautiful, toned down (read: acoustic) version of "Tangled Up". It sounded, I must say, much more lush and pretty than the version on Pop4. Then Manu (who drummed with so much energy throughout the show, I was sure he would explode a la Spinal Tap) and Mark joined the Shaws for "Adoration", my personal favourite. Then, an absolute show-stopping performance of "Lilies", drawn out and extended, with the lighting synchronised with Manu's every thunderous drumbeat. The lights reached their crescendo with the intensity of the music, and then pow! the show was complete and the houselights came on.
Au revoir, mes amis, depuis la prochaine fois.
The band hung out with fans in front of the club, next to the tour bus, and Manu, when I asked him, seemed particularly pleased with the performance. "We love Dallas, we love the people of Dallas," he said, "unlike Austin -- the Austin experience wasn't so good." The Cranes were completely polite and gracious, signing autographs and taking pictures with people, chatting with anybody who so much as approached them. I personally cannot wait for them to return, to see them again -- a bit like old friends who didn't get to stay long enough.