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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

December 16, 2012 at 10:43 AM

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Bazan / Jurado: God in the building

bazan jurado 1.jpg
David Bazan and Damien Jurado; photos by me

"I'm not into nostalgia," said local singer-songwriter David Bazan Saturday night to a packed house at the Neptune Theatre, the finale of a mostly sold-out U.S. tour organized around his old band Pedro the Lion's 2002 album "Control."

Bazan doesn't play old songs he doesn't believe in. He doesn't play the popular "Promise," for instance, about how God is taking care of you even if it seems like the world is falling apart. He does play "Control," however — a concept album about cheating lovers and murder.

"It's been a trip trying to make this record happen every night," Bazan said. "But tonight it really did."

That was true: "Control" hit emotionally harder and deeper in the churchlike former movie theater than on the album, which was rereleased on vinyl this year.

Highlights included the sarcastic coda, "Rejoice," and an upbeat/deadpanned "Indian Summer." Bazan's distorted electric guitar lines crept like loud napalm, penetrated by his low-tenor singing voice, and his band excelled. Alex Westcoat pounded the drums cleanly; bassist Andy Fitts played synthesizer with his feet.

Bazan played a few newer songs, too, proving he still has it. It all went to further establish him as an underrated God of Pacific Northwest indie rock.

Bazan only sells tens of thousands of copies per album, tops, but he constantly fills big-ish theaters. Chalk it up to good art and faithful followers.

The previous night, Bazan's occasional musical collaborator and friend going back to Shorewood High School, Damien Jurado, filled the immense St. Mark's Cathedral on Capitol Hill. Like Bazan, Jurado came into the indie rock/singer-songwriter game in the late '90s, discussing evangelical Christianity in lyrics and interviews. And like Bazan, the main themes in his art are doubt, fear, pain and worry.

The pews were crammed and people sat silent on blankets around the pulpit as Jurado played "Medication" from 2000, a ghostly ballad about electroshock therapy and a plea to God for euthanasia, to relieve a distressed brother. If you believed, you could say God was in the building.


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