To clear the air, I have been listening to Cursive since before the Metro went smoke free - those days when you distinctly stunk leaving the venue. Yet as bands became more colorful with Chicago's ban, the calendars turned and my seeing Cursive live count still was a lowly zero. After years upon years, the equivalent of "the one that got away" finally was put to rest as climbing up those staircases into the Metro-nearly nine years in. Better late than never, eh?
The announced bill of Cursive and Alkaline Trio was a direct challenge to a prior attempted attendance years ago; Cursive, Murder By Death and The Blood Brothers. Both sold out in dramatic fashion, leaving people venturing in vain to land tickets in Wrigleyville. Despite a set lacking much crowd conversation, Kasher confirmed every burgeoning expectation I had construed in the near decade wait in a mere 30 minute set. Starting with the middle of the set's "Let Me Up" as an example, his vocals are unmatched dynamically from ethereal whispers to stunted cries of angst. And yes, still no cello as in my early listening years, but multi-instrumentalist Patrick Newbery brass had the drew the same attention during the crashing, bright "Big Bang" that followed.
Sunday night's setlist was peppered throughout Cursive's diverse discography, evident by the opening three songs: "Some Red Handed Slight of Hand," "Dorothy at Forty," and "From the Hips." The bold contrast between the opener and "Dorothy…" made the one-two arguably better than its recorded coupling with "Art Is Hard", sustaining that demand for the crowd's insatiable attention. Their musical barrage left Kasher a few words between songs or impromptu improvisational lyrical. The audience was rekindled by back catalog dabbles of "A Red So Deep," "The Great Decay," and "The Casualty." While their short-lived set ended with the triumphant statement "I Couldn't Love You," you couldn't help but wish the roles could've been switched for an encore. Yet thirty minutes and eleven-songs later, the stage was empty.
Unlike my Cursive concert history, Alkaline Trio notched a sixth showing a week after their seventh album was released. However as Cursive continued to experiment, critically speaking McHenry County's greatest export shifted-then stuck-to the pop end of things through the mid-2000s. Sunday night they embraced their past, clearing newfound single "This Addiction" out of the way and going straight into "Emma" and "Armageddon." In fact, their new release was represented by a meager spattering of "Dine, Dine My Darling," "Dead on the Floor" and a couple others.
Their debut, since placed on that unreachable pedestal, was only featured with the encore "San Francisco" but the lead-in, "wrote in 1996", of "'97" satiated the unfortunately aging hold-outs of the all-ages crowd. Yet even when you can tell which song was the night's closer, Chicago's seminal punk band threw in a surprise when Skiba reigned in on the drums with Derek Grant at the helm. Covering The Misfit's "Attitude", Derek was able to draw the capacity crowd to the days when Alkaline Trio were packing the landmark Fireside Bowl.
Sunday night was, in short, a representation of listening habits of the 2000s. Weathering the band break-ups, as with the aforementioned The Blood Brothers, both Midwestern stalwarts churn out some of the most discussed and criticized music. While the logic behind teaming up the two continues to baffle even after the flyers and SmartBar has closed, at least attendees left knowing that there still are familiar constants in the relentlessly evolving music scenes.