Citizen’s Here and Abroad concert review

The last time Citizen’s Here and Abroad played at Slim’s; they were the openers for The Polyphonic Spree. On March 4, 2006 they returned as the headlining act. It was all to be expected as every time they play they sound more polished and mature. They have been playing together for years and it shows.

The first band to play this evening was The Stevenson Ranch Davidians. They could be described as more dream pop than true shoegazer with a faint alt-country undercurrent.

Their set lasted less then an hour but because of the nature of their songs it felt much longer. They were indulgent rather then focused. It felt like you were watching their first live show in front of an audience.

It was quantity over quality. All songs were epic in length but what at first was interesting quickly became redundant and overwrought. It also really did not help that every song they played sounded incredibly similar to the one that came before it.

If they focused on perfecting their sound and what they expect of the audience I could see them being a more successful niche sort of band. There were too many things wrong with their set to say anything too positive about them. When one of the main things they have going for them is the fact that their bassist bears a striking resemblance to Avril Lavigne, there are some very fundamental problems with the band.

Next to take the stage was San Francisco’s own Vervein. Comprised of four female artists, their sound is hard to exactly place. Not simple enough to be compared to Letters to Cleo or The Breeders, and though it is slightly reminiscent of old Death Cab for Cutie, they manage to create their own sound.

Most members provide vocals and the resulting “girl-swirl” as they call it recalls thoughts of Mazzy Star. Musically, they sound like the harder edged version of all those mid-nineties girl-rock bands or the sort of late-nineties pop now blithely referred to as “emo”.

Not content with sticking to one instrument throughout the set the members of the band used ; besides various guitars ; keyboards and even a cello in a number of songs. The percussionist sometimes would break from the drum kit to hammer out melodies on the glockenspiel. Overall, it was a strong and confident set from a band whose star is surely on the rise.

Finally, Citizen’s Here and Abroad took to the stage. As they got up and broke into their first song they sounded every bit the role of headliners. They are one of the top contemporary shoegazing acts and seeing them live really confirms that fact.

I think Hiya Swanhuyser of the SF Weekly describes their sound best when she writes, “Neat little repeating guitar riffs, huge fuzzy walls of sound, a spaz-freak genius drummer, and the occasional hot-rockin’ glockenspiel.” This does not even describe the way vocals are, which is a blend between female contralto and male tenor falsetto reminiscent of the work of Kevin Shields.

A great recording group, when they have someone good running the mixing board their live shows are spectacular. This nights’ show was one of those performances. They were firing on all cylinders and the audience was there with them.

Their set list was a pretty even mix of old and new with a slightly higher amount of new songs from their upcoming album present. On account of the harder and faster sound of their new tracks the show had a nicer flow to it. The pace was upbeat and lean. Even the slower songs did not drag the show but instead provided moments of levity from all the head banging.

They only gave a one song encore, but when the biggest complaint is that they did not play long enough, you know it was a great set. This month on the 30th, they are doing a show at Popscene as part of Noise Pop 2006, and if you want to say you caught them before they were huge or if you just want to go to a great shoegazer rock show, be sure to be there.