Seeing bands that love to tour makes shows better. Many bands go on the road out of necessity and it is a struggle for them, some bands just belong on a tour bus and drinking in a strange bar every night. Murder By Death and Lucero both fit in the latter category. Each band tours the vast majority of their time, sometimes going through the same cities more than once in a calender year. The pairing of these two is great for a concert because of the music as well, Murder By Death is a brash, rustic band that makes you want to stomp and shout while Lucero is more soul oriented and concentrates more on vital lyrics than anthemic choruses. The would cross paths in Kansas City for a great bill at the outdoor venue The Crossroads.
Murder By Death would go on stage at The Crossroads during the magic hour, the sun was just beginning to hide and give way to a perfect evening for an outdoor show. The 65 degree night would prove to be an ideal for a long night under the stars. Murder By Death came out to a good reception and quickly set the pace for a thunderous set dominated by biting lyrics and the sound of the bass dominating the mix. The left-handed guitar playing Adam Turla’s vocals are as stern and confident of a voice as you’ll hear. He bellows like Johnny Cash if he had listened to the Sex Pistols instead of gospel growing up (yes, I’m aware the Sex Pistols weren’t around yet.)
Sampling from several records in the band’s catalog fairly evenly they blasted through a shortened set as the opener and ended up satisfying the loyals and winning over the indifferents in the crowd. The cello would reverberate like a horn section as they played a group of rootsy punk songs. They would hit staples like “Fuego!” “Brother” and “You Don’t Miss Twice When You’re Shaving With A Knife” along the way and end up with a thunderous closing song of “Comin’ Home” from their Red of Tooth and Claw album from 2008. That song was immediately preceded by a surprising cover of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” that Murder By Death would make their own. The apex of their set was an undeniably stellar version of “I Came Around” off of their latest record Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon. When they exited the stage and the crew began the tear down immediately the crowd cheered for more, but it would be a luxury the opening band simply wouldn’t get.
A few people left and a few more people began the lurch toward the stage as Lucero appeared for their set. The Lucero lineup would suffer a vital hit and it was instantly noticeable as guitarist Brian Venable wasn’t on stage. Lead singer Ben Nichols would later explain “Brian’s got some family stuff to take care of back home and we miss him like hell.” The songs rolled out the same throughout the night but when it came time for Venable’s simple, yet appropriate guitar solos, the songs would feel an emptiness. The horn section, keyboards or bass would most times do a fill where the solos would belong. This didn’t stop Lucero from coming out swinging with the rockers “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo” and “Tonight Ain’t Gonna Be Good.” Later the set would give way to a mojority of slower songs for the most part but the absent member of the Lucero family didn’t appear to effect the setlist.
It’s difficult to imagine a Lucero set to be disappointing and this one certainly wasn’t. Nichols would sing song after song while his band would shuffle on and off of the stage behind him. They would hit some of the older albums harder than the new ones (as they often do) by playing several songs from Tennessee like “Sweet Little Thing” “Nights Like These” and the brilliant “Chain Link Fence.” They would touch on newer material like “On My Way Downtown” “Texas & Tennessee” and “Women & Work” as well. Their Jawbreaker cover “Kiss The Bottle” was great as always and has become a standard in any Lucero set. Nichols would be at his best on the night with slower songs or as he put it “whiskey drinking songs.” His take on his own solo song “The Last Pale Light In The West” and the closing version of “Hold Me Close” with just Nichols singing and Rick Steff on keyboard would prove to be high points of the 28 song set.
Murder By Death setlist from The Crossroads in Kansas City, MO on 7/15/14:
- Kentucky Bourbon -> As Long as there is Whiskey in the World
- You Don’t Miss Twice When You’re Shavin’ With a Knife
- Steal Away
- King of the Gutters, Prince of the Dogs
- The Curse of Elkhart
- I Came Around
- Lost River
- Until Morale Improves, The Beatings Will Continue
- Never Tear Us Apart (INXS Cover)
- Comin’ Home
Lucero setlist from The Crossroads in Kansas City, MO on 7/15/14:
- The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo
- My Best Girl
- Nights Like These
- Tonight Ain’t Gonna Be Good
- Texas & Tennessee
- Women & Work
- Kiss The Bottle (Jawbreaker cover)
- Darlin, Do You Gamble?
- Raising Hell
- Drink Til We’re Gone
- Chain Link Fence
- What Else Would You Have Me Be?
- Slow Dancing
- The War
- You Decided To Leave
- The Last Pale Light In The West
- All Sewn Up
- Sixes and Sevens
- Darken My Door
- Old Sad Songs
- She Just That Kinda Girl
- Tears Don’t Matter Much
- Fistful of Tears
- encroe break
- Sweet Little Thing
- That Much Further West
- Hold Me Close