Midlake – Live at The Paradise Rock Club

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What are the odds?  Of three nights in Boston, only one was suited for me to find a local concert.  And, the only concert that held any interest was by Midlake, who I had just seen a week earlier in Atlanta. 

Hmm. $16 for a show plus a Boston subway adventure, or stay in the hotel room?

And so it was that the Red Line connected to the Green Line, and just after passing Boston University, I found myself in front of the “historic” Paradise Rock Club.  The club has been there over 30 years and has hosted Dire Straits, The Police, AC/DC, Tom Petty and others.  Must be quite a place, right?

The Dise

I arrived early, finding that the Club also had a bar/restaurant.  That worked, as I was both early and hungry.  So here’s a rule when ordering food from a bar:  Eat bar food, like whatever hamburger they offer.  Do NOT order a Panini. 

A Harpoon IPA somewhat salvaged the meal… and then met Bob, a fellow music aficionado, who made the wait for the doors to open enjoyable.  I’m not in a habit of going to concerts alone, but it’s always cool to meet people.

The venue was not what I expected.  You turn a corner, and hey, there’s a bar.  You look forward to check out the stage, and it’s… right… there.  Hmm.  Imagine a narrow rectangular room, with the stage not at the end where it might be expected, but in the middle of the lengthier side.  The arrangement leaves room for a crowd about 8 deep between the stage and the bar.  There are tiered tables at the far ends and a narrow balcony around the perimeter leading to the sound booth, again at the center. 

Looking to one side from the center

But the center isn’t actually a great place to be, because there’s a giant column in front of the stage also.  It’s hard to imagine that “The Dise,” as it is known, has gone 30 years without being able to knock down an adjoining wall to make a proper venue.  I would not want to imagine the discontent should they pack a full occupancy load of 728 people in the space as it is.

Another disappointment was that, despite standing in the 2nd row of fans, the stage lighting was fairly fixed, unimaginative, and generally too difficult a handicap for a point and shoot camera.  Alas.

Midlake played the identical 100 minute set as I had heard in Atlanta, which suited me fine.  I obviously greatly enjoy their music, and the opportunity toMidlake - Tim Smith watch and listen again brought some new insights.

1) Tim Smith’s relatively sedate stage presence was favorably affected by the smaller venue and a more interactive audience before him.  As compared with the Good Friday Atlanta show, he visibly enjoyed the crowd’s response, and he played standing almost entirely.  Otherwise, “sedate” works for him in any environment.

2) Eric Nichelson’s guitar work might be Midlake - Eric Nichelsoncompared, in a sense, with George Harrison’s.  His solos don’t excite, but his guitar phrasings shape many of the songs and are perfectly suited to the material.  He’s also extremely stage shy, primarily looking at either his band mates or a spot on the floor about one foot his side of the stage monitor.

3) McKenzie Smith is similar to Nicholson in that his drumming is perfectly suited to the material, and he has a wide range of percussive sounds to lend. 

Midlake - McKenzie Smith

4) Paul Alexander, the bassist, plays some great lines if you listen carefully, particularly when counterpointing a flute solo.Midlake - Paul Alexander

5) Whereas their albums recall relatively soft early 70’s rock, their concerts may play sweetly for the quieter moments (flute, acoustic guitar), but they obviously enjoy amplifying their songs to a full frontal rock assault.  And they do it very well.

6) Many bands have “canned” comments they make to the crowd, introducing songs, etc.  Although the members of Midlake don’t talk a lot with the audience, they are one of surprisingly few bands that listen to the audience and seem to enjoy the informal banter.  All of this doesn’t matter much, except it seems likely that they’re nice people. 

7) It made me really appreciate Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse for its fantastic lighting and sound systems. 

The Dise

Afterwards, the subway ride back was (thankfully) uneventful, but it was surprising how packed trains can be only 30 minutes before they shut down for the evening.

A few additional photos, including guitar pedals, can be viewed HERE.

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