You know the kind of songs you know so well you can almost feel them leaving impressions upon your bones with every note sung? Such is the case with many Midlake songs. The Trials of Van Occupanther was not just one of my top albums of 2006 but one I experienced with completeness. I fell into the album like a well, absorbing myself in its songs throughout the summer, plunging deep to emerge much later soaked with rich lyricism and guitar chords as well as vocal harmonies. Hearing these songs live brought a bit of bliss because of their heavy familiarity.
Of course, Denton, Texas’s Midlake did grace Chicago with their presence this summer but instead of playing a place like Schubas, they decided to enrich the sun soaked audience at Lollapallooza with their melodies. So I missed seeing them and actually sent them a message begging them to come back to Chicago and play a smaller venue. Bringing this act to fruition also delivered them the fans of two sold out shows.
Live, the five piece played in front of a backdrop screen showing bits of films. (One of which was Andrei Roublev by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky according to a friend of mine.) It created a tone but made the music more part of a landscape than a centerpiece the same way the visuals made it more difficult to distinguish their facial features at certain points.
The songs came off fairly similar as they do on album and, while they concentrated more heavily on The Trials of Van Occupanther, they did play one new song and a couple of earlier quirky ones from an earlier album Banman and Silvercork including “Balloon Maker.” They made these songs work well into the fabric of the night. The choice to play their biggest hit, “Roscoe” as their second song was an interesting one because it gave the impression that they may have wanted to get it over with. The song they saved until the end of the full set, “Head Home” was surprisingly much more catchy live than the single and their two song encore to end the night brought the evening round to a state of gentleness. My one criticism is that despite the tightness of their songs, it benefited mainly those that were most familiar with them already. One thing that might add to them in a live setting is to speed them up a little more or just rock them out a bit more…not too much as to preserve their subtle graces but enough to really open up the catchy glories inside of them.