Review: Scott Kelly at the Hi-Dive, 12/3/11
SCOTT KELLY at HI-DIVE | 12/3/11
Tom Murphy Scott Kelly
There were plenty of signs around the hi-dive last night indicating that this was an acoustic show. Meaning: Talking was ill-advised. Even so, some people near the stage decided to have a conversation at the beginning of Scott Kelly's set, at which point he kindly asked them take it some place else. For the rest of the set, the crowd was quite respectful and their attentiveness was rewarded with a performance from Kelly that was raw, honest and focused.
After gently admonishing the talkers, Kelly played nine songs that were a marvel of spare composition hefted by a palpable emotional intensity. Playing both a low end line like bass while playing a rhythmic lead with hanging chords, Kelly created a heightened mood that permeated the room with shimmering gloominess. Not that the music was depressing, but it felt like it came out of a great need to expose, or at least explore, aspects of some secret, personal pain in a constructive and honest way.
Tom Murphy Scott Kelly
"Figures" was the perfect example of how Kelly could contain nearly overwhelming emotions and turn it into poetry without the often requisite level of melodrama, while "In the Wake of Everything" recalled "D" by Codeine. There's not many things you hear in music that have that same degree of harrowing emotions spent and then rearing their ugly head to devastate you again with the memory. It was like the awful specter of an experience that changed you forever only to make you relive it again when you think about it.
Toward the end of the set, Kelly played a new Shrinebuilder song and told us that this was as great an audience as he's had for his solo shows. Maybe in general. And the crowd was incredibly giving, appreciative and gracious in a way you don't see often enough. But, how often are you going to get to see something like this, really? Someone who's seen Kelly play solo a number of times said this was one of his best shows. He closed with a weighty yet cathartic version of "We Burn Through the Night," and it sounded like something that had to have been an influence on Kevin Failure of Pink Reason, which is no faint praise.
Tom Murphy Munly
Munly played a solo set before Kelly took the stage. It's been a while since we've seen Munly play solo, and he's clearly honed his craft to a fine degree on all levels. His guitar playing was crisp, layered and subtly evocative, and he's found a way to focus the raw character of his voice. A lot of people with a bit of a country background will use yodeling as a gimmick or an affectation. Last night, Munly used it to accent his lyrics with a graceful flourish. He evoked a sense of background menace while weaving stories in his words like dimly lit parables, part Cormac McCarthy, part John Steinbeck.
Pleading to the universe for succor with his voice from moments of spiritual crisis, Munly made a song out of the Slim Cessna's Auto Club catalog seem even more poignant, not just because of the intimacy of the show but thanks to his take on that song without the rest of the band around him. Munly has always been an interesting and significant artist, but this show revealed another facet of what it is that makes his songwriting and presence so enduringly worthwhile.
After the show, we had a chance to talk to Kelly in the green room at the hi-dive about various aspects of his career, Savage Republic, the UFC and the nature of how he approaches his louder music and the acoustic sets. Click through to read the entire interview.
Bias: Neurosis is one of my favorite bands, and Scott Kelly's solo music is a very different but important facet of his artistic expression.
Random Detail: Ran into Adam Avery formerly of The Bedraggled and Soul Bender at the show.
By the Way: Scott Kelly is the same person off stage as he is on stage -- real, gracious and articulate.