Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Fiery Furnaces, Live @ An Club, Athens (March 2, 2010)

As anyone who is familiar with The Fiery Furnaces prolific recording output knows, the brother and sister core of the band, Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, have Greek roots. This became apparent with their 2005 concept album "Rehearsing My Choir" whose narrator was their grandmother, Olga Sarantos, a choir director at a Greek Orthodox church in Illinois. Although, as we've found out, the two siblings have visited Greece before, this was the first time they came to play in Athens, their honorary home city, with their band which also included Bob D'Amico on drums and ex-Sebadoh Jason Loewenstein on bass. The timing couldn't have been better for me, as their latest album, "I'm Going Away", was among my favorites of 2009 and, in my opinion, one of the best in the band's career.

Not surprisingly, several of the key tracks of "I'm Going Away" were present in the almost 90-minute set ("Charmaine Champagne", "The End Is Near", "Drive To Dallas", "Cut The Cake"), which also included many highlights from the band's rich back catalogue ("Up In The North", "Asthma Attack", "Tropical Ice-Land", "Single Again", "Here Comes The Summer", "Blueberry Boat", "I'm In No Mood", "Ex-Guru", "Duplexes Of The Dead" to name but a few). The Fiery Furnaces are known for their experimental nature and their tendency to improvise on stage and the Athens show was no exception. The guitar-bass-drums basic instrumentation (Matthew didn't bring his keyboards with him this time) gave their songs a punk rock edge, changing time signatures at the drop of a hat and favoring speed and noise over melody. As the show progressed and the band familiarized themselves with the club's sound and the appreciative audience, The Fiery Furnaces upped their game and the last 20 minutes of their set was the night's highlight, playing a medley of some of their best tracks. Before that, Bob and Jason had briefly left the stage leaving the Friedbergers to perform as a duo, with Eleanor taking up drummer duties.

As the band concluded their fine maiden performance in Athens, Matthew expressed the wish to come back soon for more shows. Although this is something that bands usually say, I'm sure that The Fiery Furnaces mean it and we are certainly going to hold them to that promise!

The Fiery Furnaces playing "Charmaine Champagne", the second track of their Athens set (An Club, March 2, 2010)

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