From a live music perspective, New Haven, Connecticut, is one of the more frequently-overlooked areas in the Northeast. When looking for an itinerary filler between Boston and New York City, it is far from uncommon for most larger, more established bands to opt to play the larger venues and the generally more diverse crowds in the somewhat-nearby, locales of Hartford or Providence, Rhode Island. Set quite literally in the shadows of the hallowed, gothic stone-and-ivy shadows of Yale University, the 750-ish capacity Toad’s Place, in all its sticky-floored, thisclosetobeingadive glory, has nonetheless served as the site of some pretty epic (or at least great) live shows in its 37-year history, when all of the planets are appropriately aligned. (Seriously, Google it.)
Given that Alkaline Trio were taking their My Shame Is True tour to Toad’s Place on a cold, rainy Sunday night that also just-so-happened to be smack in the middle of commencement weekend at Yale, this writer was not so sure that the planets would be so aligned on this evening. This writer, as is so frequently the case, was pleasantly mistaken.
Alkaline Trio’s Epitaph Records labelmates Off With Their Heads got the evening off to a rowdy start. Toad’s Place was less than capacity at the time (in part due to the band’s 7:30pm start time), yet the crowd in attendance was more than attentive. The ample elbow room allowed the small-yet-vocal contingent of dyed-in-the-wool OWTH fans to make themselves known, inspiring the frequently-awkward six-person mosh pit that bore a stronger resemblance to summer football practice tackling drills than it did to a traditional circle pit, but I digress. Off With Their Heads’ leader and frontman, the ever-deprecating Ryan Young, made repeat mention of the fact that the front section of the crowd, largely composed of Alkaline Trio (read as: Matt Skiba) fans seemed a little put off (confused??) by OWTH’s gruffer take on self-loathing-infused punk rock, which stands to reason I suppose. But in mixing songs from their whole catalog, including ‘slower,’ more melody-driven numbers like “Please Don’t Make Me Go Home” from this year’s critically-acclaimed Home, Off With Their Heads did a more than serviceable job of getting the audience moving, setting the intensity bar high for the two following acts.
In a twist from the normal lineup that this tour has featured thus far, and will feature going forward, Into It. Over It. occupied the main support slot as Bayside were off at the Skate And Surf Festival in New Jersey. In spite of their late announcement to the show, and their seemingly curious fit on the bill, Evan and his four-piece backing band were met with eager anticipation by many of the staff. On more than one occasion, Weiss commented on the amount of love and warmth he has received from the Connecticut DIY community, and that reflected in spades. The atmospheric, noodly (sorry to use that word) interludes the band used to fill time while tuning instruments were too frequent and long, however, and almost seemed to let the air out of some of the momentum that they had worked their collective asses of in building. Still, the band were incredibly tight, no easy task given the angular nature and frequent time signature changes that Weiss employs to keep his typical solo performance sound unique.
Needless to say after a couple of high energy opening acts, the now-capacity crowd was loaded for bear by the time Alkaline Trio took the stage and blasted into My Shame Is True opener, “She Lied To The FBI.” If you’ve caught one or more shows on this tour (or you’re keeping track over at setlist.fm), there was little left to the imagination in the band’s seventeen-song main set. In fact, there were no differences at all from the previous night in Boston. What the set lacked in creativity, however, it made up for many times over in energy and focus.
Not surprisingly, five songs from the stellar My Shame Is True featured prominently in the main set, scattered amidst a healthy sampling from the first half-dozen years of the Trio’s career. The well-placed “Clavicle,” the set’s third song, served as an early show highlight, whipping the already primed-and-ready-to-go crowd into its first frenzy. Nothing from This Addiction, Alkaline Trio’s 2010 full-length (and a personal favorite of mine) found its way into the set, though a setlist focusing on “the old stuff” more than satisfied the crowd. “Sadie,” “My Friend Peter” and the electrified “Olde English 800,” in its 45 seconds of glory were particular crowd favorites. The slightly older than average crowd, for its part, was full of energy, giving most of the night the feel of a rowdy singalong. The first real and only real ‘pit’ of the night didn’t form until the latter half of “97,” which brought the show to a close. Sadly, and curiously, “Radio” was left out of the encore set, which may have been a first for this tour.
The Trio seemed to be in good spirits, and the interplay between the three was as tight as this writer has ever seen it. Matt Skiba, who assumed vocal duties for most of the evening, was particularly playful. Dan Andriano, the typically more laid-back of the frontmen anyway, seemed to be even more subdued than normal, apparently feeling the effects of what, according to Skiba, was a hospital-trip-inducing head injury suffered sometime prior to the show, though it certainly didn’t reflect in his level of performance. And that’s perhaps what I took away most from seeing Alkaline Trio in 2013: the fellas all have their various side projects and could very easily rest on their laurels, treating a tour as though they were simply punching a time card and cashing a paycheck. But the thoroughly enjoyable My Shame Is True (our review here) seems to have reinvigorated the band, and they seem to be genuinely having fun in the process as they approach their 20th anniversary.
Still…they should have played “Radio.”
Check out our photo gallery here. Sorry for the quality; despite the photo pass, security wouldn’t let yours truly shoot inside the barrier. C’est la vie!