There was a tri-fold fanbase at the Crofoot Ballroom on Friday night. Some came out in support of Kevin Devine, others in support of Manchester Orchestra, and all – to some degree – in support of Bad Books, the exciting, somewhat experimental pairing of the two entities.
Devine and Andy Hull (lead singer and guitarist for Manchester Orchestra) have some bro-mantic chemistry, the inevitable product of two like-minded individuals spending years on the same touring circuit. But their musical chemistry is especially compelling – Hull’s bitter wit and powerful voice is an ideal compliment to Devine’s softer style. We spoke with Devine a couple weeks ago about the formation of Bad Books – you can check that out here.
A Bad Books show carries an energy similar to that of a Manchester Orchestra show – loud, rocking, and sweat-inducing. But the mood is distinctly lighter. What was immediately noticeable about Bad Books was how much fun they were having jamming together. They bantered. They invaded each other’s personal space. They really love gang vocals.
The quality of their performance is top-notch. I would have expected nothing less, given these guys are touring veterans. I bet there were few people in attendance who hadn’t seen these guys at some point over the years, whether as Bad Books or otherwise. Most audience members appeared to be cheering on old friends.
Some standout tracks were “Forest Whitaker” and “The After Party,” though there were zero dull moments. Their recorded music is great – especially their latest album, II – but their sound seems designed for large stages and tall ceilings. Hull’s voice is especially resonant live, when he’s got an extra bit of un-caged energy.