The Fiery Furnaces Say They’re Going Away, But They Keep Coming Back

August 26th, 2009 · 1 Comment · By

We asked Dominic DeVito, a.k.a. DJ BaconFat of WTJU’s “Nowhere Near,” to write up the Fiery Furnaces show tonight. I’m posting it here (‘cuz he doesn’t have a Nailgun account) but everything below is written by Dom…

For the third time in four years or so, The Fiery Furnaces are gracing Charlottesville with their presence. After their first show at Satellite Ballroom was nearly derailed by a light dusting of snow that most folks mistakenly recall as a blizzard (I spent my college years in northern Indiana so I know what a real snowstorm looks like), they returned last year and brought the house down with their “Democ-Rock” tour, wherein they took requests from the audience in the name of political progressivism. Now the handsome brother-sister duo of Matthew Friedberger (guitar) and Eleanor Friedberger (vocals), plus bandmates Jason Lowenstein (bass) and Robert D’Amico (drums) will bring the tour behind their latest album, I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey) to the Fry’s Spring Beach Club for a hot night of sweltering licks and health care reform.

Wha? That’s right — Matthew Friedberger revealed to me during a phone conversation recently that this tour was dedicated to the cause of championing reform to America’s health care system. And it’s not just empty posturing — he’s got actively involved volunteers with info and mailing lists with him. AND he’s challenging other bands to help take up the cause on their own tours, at least until Congress gets back to business next month. What does this mean for you, the musical geek who doesn’t want to hear a lot of posturing from the stage? Well, I can say that the show in Richmond 10 days ago was short on grandstanding but long on rock. The Furnaces know how to entertain but they’ll leave it up to you to decide how politically involved you want to be.

I’m Going Away is a typical Fiery Furnaces record in that it doesn’t sound like anything they’ve done before. If anything, it’s their “pop” record, wherein each song typically explores one solid melodic and thematic idea, with Eleanor taking the lion’s share of the vocal duties. The songs are peppered with gorgeous piano passages that beg for repeat listens. Lyrically it lacks the dizzying density of previous outings, but hearing Eleanor sing atypically heart-on-sleeve lyrics makes me love her even more than I already do, if that’s possible.

As for the stage show the Furnaces bring — this tour is a keyboard-free affair, so you’ll see Matthew and Jason expertly wielding their axes while Robert anchors the songs with aplomb. It may turn a bit monochromatic sound-wise over time, but with Eleanor as the centerpiece of the whole shebang, holding it down with her uncanny lyrical recall and bewitching stage presence, the whole thing gradually builds and settles into a groove. By the end, when they’re turning “Staring At The Steeple” into a Black Sabbath juggernaut, you’ll be glad you stayed.

Also: check out my interview with Matthew Friedberger on WTJU 91.1 FM today at around 3 pm.

Tags: feature · preview

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 John // Aug 27, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Nice! Hope the show went well. Wish I coulda been there.