Murder by Death at the Stanley Hotel, 1/18/14
MURDER BY DEATH at THE STANLEY HOTEL | 1/18/14
Most shows in Colorado are easy to get to, even if you head up to the Belly Up in Aspen. But with the flood-damaged highways leading up to Estes Park, with one particular stretch narrowed to just one lane with each side of the highway sharing that lane and regulated by a light, it was a micro-Odyssey in itself just getting to the Stanley Hotel. Fortunately there was no mystery involved in figuring out where in which building in town was hosting this unique concert. The sprawling complex of classically designed white structures has a legacy of its own.
For this run of shows, Murder by Death invited fans to dress accordingly in some kind of formal wear, and many people happily obliged, as did the band, which gave the show an air of The Great Gatsby meets the Rocky Mountain equivalent of Portlandia.
The red lighting in the background of the wide stage gave it a contrasting hue from the white backdrop and projection of films that ranged from black and white German expressionist bits to what looked like snippets from those FSA photographs of rural poverty. Adam Turla was a vibrant figure fronting the band looking like a Vaudeville-era performer with a Tin Pan Alley singer style. Sarah Balliet's cello playing was masterful to the point where she could make the cello sound like horns, be it a trombone or a doleful trumpet.
Playing over twenty songs over the course of two hours, including an encore, Murder by Death played a set that pulled material from across its discography, all of which people seemed to know well, with many folks gesturing as though conducting the band. For "Kentucky Bourbon," the band brought on Vincent Edwards to play keyboards -- a guy who hadn't played in the band since 2004; understandably, he wanted to be a part of this special occasion, playing the place that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. You could hardly blame the guy and kudos to the current members of the band for bringing him in for such a unique performance opportunity.