Langhorne Slim @ Lincoln Hall, Chicago 10/23/09
On tour in support of the release of his 3rd full length, Be Set Free, Langhorne Slim appeared with some new songs and a full backing band for his performance at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall, not that he has ever needed any help with his live show.
It’s the first time I have seen him with the new lineup, which included the replacement of long time bass player Paul Difiglia, and the full band seemed to work as much for, as it did against, Slim and the live show. Often, the added instrumentation, particularly the banjo and the sax, could hardly be heard amongst all the other noise and frenzy of the performance and, with the exception of one song, the sax seemed entirely unnecessary. Even Slim seemed to be adjusting to the tighter stage space, as a result of the added members, as he unintentionally knocked down every glass or cup that could be found on stage within a 15 foot radius of him early on. Not that any of this fazed him of course.
Slim and his War Eagles played thru a number of new tracks, including “Say Yes,” “I Love You, But Goodbye” and one of the highlights of the evening “For a Little While,” which did actually get quite a lift from the sax. And while I am still trying to find where I stand on the new album I can say it is better live, as just about everything he does is. The band also rolled thru a number of older tracks, like the rambling “In the Midnight” and the rousing “Honey Pie.” Slim even managed to slip in a couple of stripped down solo numbers just to even out the evening energy.
While it was not the best Langhorne Slim show I have seen, which is certainly not an insult given his propensity for great live shows, it was still highly entertaining. Langhorne Slim is the kind of performer who, at his worst entertains and at his best is can shape the mood and musical taste within an entire room. Much like the Avett Brothers, who are consistent touring partners over the past few years, his music has grown increasingly more involved and does demand more instrumentation to pull it across live, but that does not necessarily always mean it is for the better. Perhaps it is just a case of clinging on to something which no longer exists, but his music seems at its best when stripped to the bare essentials and the live show seemed more engaging as a threesome than with the extra added members. Regardless, it will always be a fun show. Slim is just one of those performers who knows how to engage his audience and like all good performers, he closed strong. Towards the end of his set he jumped down into the middle of the crowd, while playing his guitar and brought the night to its climax by literally pulling his fans along with him. One at a time he pulled people up on to the stage to dance during one of the band’s closing staples “I Love to Dance,” proving yet again that no matter which direction his music will go, it will always be one hell of a show.