The Dismemberment Plan @ Showbox SoDo, Seattle, WA 03.12.11
The old "reunion tour" byline is nothing new anymore. Aside from Morrissey and Marr, it seems every band imaginable has put aside their differences to sling $35 T-shirts and hopefully add to their kids' college funds. While the lion's share of reunion tours consist of a flaccid, karaoke-fied vibe (show up, play greatest hits, get check, get the hell out of town before the ink dries), The Dismemberment Plan's set at the Showbox SoDo was rife with the kinetic, hyperactive energy that has made the band something of a legend, and (aside from a few technical screw-ups) showed off the scattershot focus of a band with no signs of having taken eight years of vacation.
What makes The Dismemberment Plan's story unique is that they seemingly never had the chance to watch their quarter-life neuroses become a lasting soundtrack to people's lives. Ending their decade-long run in 2003, The Dismemberment Plan's catalog has spent the past eight years slowly burning through blogs and file-trading services, building a cult following that far surpasses the momentum the band had while they were active.
Running through a workhorse 22-song set taken mostly from their last two releases (1999'sEmergency & I and 2001's Change), The Dismemberment Plan careened recklessly through genres in a playful, anxious, and abstract way. The Plan are one of those bands who thrive on their distinct, nuanced layers all falling into place: Every cyclonic drum fill, fizzy keyboard surge, or staccato guitar riff is imperative in the songs. While the cavernous Showbox Sodo did all it could to strip those layers down to a muffled thud, the band playfully shuffled and bumped into each other to at least make the energy coming off the stage overcome the muddled sound.
None of the band looks like they've aged a day since their last tour, and singer Travis Morrison still remains an undeniably witty and charismatic ringleader. Whether serving as a brooding, lovelorn frontman ("Spider in the Snow") or an art-rock storyteller (the glitchy "You Are Invited"), or spazzing out like a bratty, mid-tantrum 4-year old ("Girl O'Clock"), Morrison manages to bridge some incredibly broad gaps, channeling the distant spirits of Prince and Thom Yorke in the body of a scrawny, late-30s computer programmer.
While their set was full of crowd pleasers/greatest hits/sing-alongs (most notably, having a hundred or so audience members dancing on stage during "The Ice of Boston"), the most visceral moments of The Plan's set were in the final, pre-encore moments. Straying from their more pop-leaning material, their abrasive art-rock side took over as they stacked three of their most frantic, raw, and neurotic songs together to build a gigantic wall of tension that rattled the Showbox like a jet engine taking off from the stage. Testing the audience's limitations as well as their own, The Plan unapologetically jammed the psychosexual chaos of "Girl O'Clock" into the abrasive herky-jerky sway of "I Love a Magician," finally landing with the massive and unsettlingly frantic sprawl of "OK, Joke's Over" (complete with an ad-lib of Robyn's "None of Dem") that left the audience somewhere in the midst of cathartic exhaustion and jubilant rejuvenation.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Can you diss SoDo? No one even really lives here." (Onstage commentary by Travis Morrison)
The Dismemberment Plan set list:
- A Life of Possibilities
- Following Through
- Spider in the Snow
- The Face of the Earth
- If I Don't Write
- What Do You Want Me to Say
- Time Bomb
- You Are Invited
- Memory Machine
- Do the Standing Still
- That's When the Party Started
- Ellen and Ben
- Girl O'Clock
- I Love a Magician
- OK, Joke's Over (Robyn "None of Dem" segue)
- The Ice of Boston
- The City
- The Other Side
- The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich
- Back and Forth