I was very excited to see my friend Brandon's band Verses play at the Coffee Exchange in Adrian. So Ger and I headed out there after an ill-fated dinner meeting at the Mongolian BBQ in Ann Arbor (as it turns out, we were meeting in AA, everyone else was meeting in Novi. Oops). Between traffic, dinner, and weather, we ended up arriving at the show one song before the end of the first set... just in time to hear a pretty awesome version of All Along the Watchtower. The band took a break, and I got a chance to meet Paul (guitar/vocals), Dan (drums), and David (sax/horns).
Let me just say here, as I've said at least once or twice before, these guys are insanely good musicians. I'm used to local bands having some modicum of talent and a couple of catchy tunes... I'm not used to a local band having filled their roster with rock solid musicians who would each readily stand on their own. These guys have definitely done that, and it works insanely well most of the time (more on that reservation in a minute).
The second set opened up with Paul doing an instrumental, solo version of Amazing Grace using harmonics. He said on the way up to the stage that it would probably be really boring for the crowd and, for the most part, I'd have to agree with him... you have to be really into guitars (or really into Amazing Grace) to get into it. Fortunately for me, I am an absolute guitar geek (despite my complete lack of talent on the instrument). Suffice to say it was an astonishingly good version and the harmonics were executed brilliantly.
Brandon joined Paul for the second song into the set (the name of which I never caught) and the audience was really given a feel for how well the pair harmonize vocals. Accompanied only sparsely by Paul's guitar work, the singers carried the song on the strength of their respective diaphragms in a way almost reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends.
As I alluded to earlier, the only place where everyone's respective musical talent really didn't have the most effective impact was in Line x Line; a song I typically really enjoy. Friday night's version just sounded too crowded, as though adding one more really talented musician added an unnecessary layer of complication to the already elaborate sound. At no point did things get discordant, just... too much, but this was the only moment of the night, however, that was anything less than stellar.
A version of Tool's 46 and 2 showed that even in an acoustic set, these guys can rock. This particular song really makes me look forward to their "plugged in" show next weekend at Small's in Hamtramck. If they can hit this hard acoustically, adding electricity and a full drum set bodes well; especially in a venue in which Paul can really let his inner Maynard scream!
During the break, I was given the depressing news that the boys had already played two of my favorite songs, Hold On and Stand Down... but being the great guys that they are, they played an encore version of my favorite of the two, the latter, to close the night. Yet again, the additional horn sound in this song was surprisingly welcome, inflating it to near epic proportions. What was a really catchy, really dead-on rocker has turned into a really catchy, really heady piece that swells and flows along the lines of its own pacing. A really solid song just became outstanding.
In general, this was a fantastic show. I really wish I had made it earlier to catch some of the tracks from the first 45 minutes (wherein apparently Brandon got so into Stand Down that he shattered his pick), but the show was absolutely worth what I did see. How often do you take a 3 hour round trip to see an hour of live music and consider it time completely well spent?