These were a set of 'stricktly seated' concerts, to promote the last CD, "Blinking Lights and other Revelations". When I first saw that CD, I misread it as "Blinken Lights", and I was a tad dissapointed that this was not the actual title of the album. Yes, I'm a sad, sad geek.
Anyway, 'strictly seated', which means that all of the songs would be done almost entirely accoustical, complete with string quartet. It is always more interesting to hear a new take on an already established song.
The venue would open at 19:00. We ate early and left the house at around 18:45. I cashed in a fat karmic paycheck from all the past weeks of toiling at work, because we could park right across the road from the schouwburg. We were positioned at the relative front of the row (once we got there, the row really exploded towards the end of the street!), and we already had our tickets so that we didn't have to stand in line a second time to get our reserved tickets before entering. We sat ourselves down in the middle of the hall -- quite comfortable and with an excellent view of the stage.
The supporting... eh... 'act' was episode three of Cheburashka -- a Russian stop-motion animation. Quite charming, even though the plot could only be described as 'random' if you're not familiar with the characters.
Then, two hours after we entered the building, the concert began. I find it hard to describe it -- it blew me away. It was clear from the beginning that this band had been touring and playing together for quite some time now: it was all slick as a well-oiled machine. But not too slick: it still had some of that raw, unpolished power that live performances can have.
Everyone was dressed in suits and cocktail dresses, which added to the 'upscale' feeling that they were obviously aiming at. E was smoking cigars on stage (ashtrays were set up everywhere, and during longer string interludes he lit another one).
The slow and quiet songs are easy to do with a string quartet, and about half of the concert was filled with these. Beautiful as it was, those performances did not really add that much to the music as it was recorded on the albums -- and towards the end, the arrangements all started to sound the same.
It was the arrangements of the up-tempo numbers that really blew me away. Chet Lyster really impressed me by playing pretty much any instrument he could lay his hands on (and some non-instruments like the 'musical' saw), and the third (!) encore totally made my night: him playing both electric guitar and drums for Dog-faced Boy -- with a string quartet doing backing music!
I'm really glad we went. I do have the impression that E is, in real life, quite an asshole, but he sure knows how to make great music.