Tim Kasher warms up (to) Chicago’s Lincoln Hall (12/30)

Chicago is experiencing a thaw, and all of our snow is melting. I know some of you just got plowed with — and are now plowing — a veritable fuck-ton of snow, but New Years Eve Eve in The Second City felt like summer. There were puddles where there are supposed to be ice slicks, hoodies where there were supposed to be coats, and at Lincoln Hall, sure, “there were cigarettes where there were supposed to be eyes.” The Hold Steady brought a fine show that night, but opening up was Cursive frontman Tim Kasher, supporting his 2010 solo album The Game of Monogamy. So before the crowd reveled in their inner youth and positivity, Kasher provided a reality check.

After years fronting Cursive, Kasher plays the confident old hand on stage. No nonsense, no frills, and minimal banter left just straightforward stomp-rock for a solid 45 minutes. He has this air that is anything but desperate, which is refreshing, but doesn’t do much for him in the way of having a sense of belonging to the crowd. Already, the crowd at the show was a discordant mix of Craig Finn dopplegangers and gawkish younger kids, so Kasher was fighting an eager and drunk bunch.

Kasher’s voice, for those unfamiliar, sounds a like an even cross of Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Tweedy — his words sometimes fall out of the sides of his mouth, but when featured, it’s an arresting and wonderful thing. This didn’t happen until he got to the fourth song of the evening, the downtempo “There Must Be Something I’ve Lost”. The honest and sardonically reflective balladeer revealed himself with the lyrics, “I want to fuck all my old girlfriends again.” Say what you will about the how cliche that line is, but at least now I was listening.

Photo by Max Blau

From then on, a smattering of covers and generally better songs picked up Kasher’s dragging heels, including a great cover of Bowie’s “Stoned Love” (aided pointedly by synth/ trumpet player) into three of his best songs, Cursive cover included (“We’ve only got ten songs, so we’ve got to do a lot of covers,” Kasher quipped).

Above all, above the formidable musicianship and song-craft, above the ample energy and confidence, I left unchallenged by Kasher. Maybe my ears are more tuned to whatever the current zeitgeist of music is, but where were atmospherics and emotional evocation? Where was the Kasher that was the smart and complex couple-hood expounder prevalent on the record? The band buried the songwriting and felt untimely and stale at points — like the expiration date printed on the songs was severely underestimated. It would behoove Kasher to do away with his talented, Chicago-based band, and perform these songs alone because his themes and lyrics are worth more than the overall sound he produced with his band. I didn’t leave with a bad taste in my mouth, but it’s the difference between processed and organic wares.

The Hold Steady took to the stage, and for a review of that show, I’ll differ to Mike Roffman who saw their New Year’s Eve show in Milwaukee.

Photography by Max Blau.

Bad, Bad Dreams
No Fireworks
Don’t Get Caught
There Must Be Something I’ve Lost
Empty Bed (The Good Life cover)
The Prodigal Husband
Cold Love
Soul Love (David Bowie cover)
A Grown Man
Driftwood (Cursive cover)
I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here

Gallery by Max Blau

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