The best bands play with the same energy and love for song whether they are in front of a sold-out crowd in a coliseum, or a sparsely attended small club.
In the unfortunately obscure locally made movie “Bandwagon” (1996), a road manager played by Doug MacMillan of the Raleigh indie pop band The Connells asks the members of the fictional group Circus Monkey after a disastrous gig: “Do you love the crowd or do you love the songs?”
It was apparent right off the bat that the Californian group Goldenboy, playing a set at the Casbah in downtown Durham last Saturday night was in love with the songs. Not that they didn’t show major appreciation for the folks in attendance, but the immersive joy they displayed in their 11 song set solidified that they were absolutely in it for the music, and everything else can happily fade away when they play.
As the night had started off shaky as my wife and I almost got in an accident on the slick wet roads on the way over from Raleigh, I was more than ready for everything else to fade away.
With its jaunty rhythm, soaring backing vocals, and songwriter Shon Sullivan’s soothing singing, their opener “Ice Breaker Blues” took hold, and set the ingratiating groove for the rest of the evening.
Touring to support their exceptionally strong 4th album “Sleepwalker” (released earlier this year), Goldenboy highlighted their new material, but sprinkled in excellent selections from their previous albums “Blue Swan Orchestra” (2002) and “Underneath The Radio” (2006).
Throughout their set the influence of the late Elliot Smith (who sang on one of their records) could be felt, but their music held its own as something that could stand beside the Magnetic Fields, Belle & Sebastian, and the New Pornographers in the annals of intelligent indie pop.
It was an evening of insanely catchy songs with sprightly layered arrangements that had Sullivan and Nicole Verhamme trading lead and rhythm guitar duties, bouncing basslines provided by Katy Stone (who also contributed occasional xylophone), Keith Brown’s crafty keyboard work, and Jon Crawford’s intensely dynamic drumming.
Sadly we got there too late to see the first opening band – locals The Pinkerton Raid – but we caught The Honored Guest’s incredibly rocking set, and will definitely check them out again.
The Casbah’s sound system sounded great and the atmosphere there was perfect, if only more people were there to bask in it.
When Goldenboy comes around to this area again, be sure to come out to see them. Such a band with this particular love for song – songs that deserve their attention, and yours – is hard to come by. Thankfully there are discs of theirs to hear in the meantime, but it’s the memory of this stunning live performance that will enhance my listening to them until then.
Goldenboy’s set list: “Ice Breaker Blues”/ “I Like You Because”/“Sing Another Song For The Winterlong”/“Kittens Of Lust”/“Summer Of The Evening”/“Rock And Roll All Night”/“Holiday”/“Anna Said”/“Different Moon”/“Almost Perfect”/“Body And Soul”