Concert Review: Murder By Death / Tim Barry at The Granada in Lawrence, KS 3/31/16

Murder By Death with Tim Berry tour poster

Murder By Death was dubbed “the most genuine, hard working band out there” by opening act Tim Barry at The Granada in Lawrence, Kansas. Their 80 minute set later that night would do nothing to dispute the claim. They have a strong connection with their rabid fanbase and power through their set unapologetically. Part of an established band’s duties is choosing a good opening act their audience will enjoy, with the addition of Tim Barry on this tour they did exactly that as well.

Tim Barry looks like the guy that changed your carburetor at the body shop or maybe he was the guy that came and fixed your pipes last summer. He is also a talented songwriter that has gained a steady following by putting his heart and soul into every live performance. He comes to center stage casually with a ball cap and button-up shirt and sets up his own rig. He proclaims that his first song “Dog Bumped” is a true story about a friend of his in jail. The story goes through a narrative of a man in prison for murdering an abusive boyfriend of his sister’s. Each song that followed would be centered around epiphanies and tribulations set to the soundtrack of an acoustic guitar.

Barry would sing of his truck driving days and of riding the rails of a freight train on “Church of Level Track” along with a love song to his wife called “Older and Poorer” that was overflowing with sentiment. He would get politically worked up about the realizations of The South on “Prosser’s Gabriel” before settling himself down with some Todd Snider-style humor on “Downtown VCU.” His connection with the audience was great because of his honest narratives and really putting himself into his performances much the way Possessed By Paul James and William Elliott Whitmore do. He would casually mentioned he may be playing in the street later before letting the night’s headliner have the stage.

Singer/songwriter Tim Berry preforms live at The Granada in Lawrence, Kansas on 3/31/16 opening for Murder By Death.

Singer/songwriter Tim Barry preforms live at The Granada in Lawrence, Kansas on 3/31/16 opening for Murder By Death.

Tim Barry setlist from The Granada in Lawrence, KS 3/31/14

  • Dog Bumped
  • No News From North
  • Walk 500 Miles
  • Idle Idylist
  • Church of Level Track
  • This November
  • Older and Poorer
  • Prosser’s Gabriel
  • Downtown VCU
  • Avoiding Catatonic Surrender

Murder By Death came out to a full crowd of loyal fans at The Granada. The audience was filled with 30s somethings misfits with the women often having chest tattoos and the men commonly having finely combed hair with untamed beards. There probably weren’t many prom queens or high school quarterbacks in the crowd would be a fair assessment. The band came out to patient and attentive ears. Once they broke into “I Came Around” to start their set the crowd began to rumble.

The band has frequented the theater several times over their career so many repeat customers were listening from the pit, this would lead to several requests for songs from older records, which the band complied with. They would first get out of the way setlist standards like “The Curse of Elkhart” “Brother” and “Steal Away.” They would hit their latest album Big Dark Love modestly with the title track, “Dream in Red” “Natural Pearl” and possibly the record’s best song, the barren “Strange Eyes.” Lead singer Adam Turla would admit he was getting over a cold and might need help if the crowd knew the songs but his performance would prove otherwise. After singing “Dream in Red” he would comment “I wrote a depressing setlist tonight, that was a murder ballad and this song’s about hell.” before segwaying into “Raw Deal.”

The lefty lone guitarist leading the band switched between electric, acoustic and a signature red hollow body guitar during the set. He was flanked by cellist Sarah Balliet who maintained a stoic demenor throughout and the band’s secret weapon Matt Armstrong on bass. To truly understand what Armstrong adds to the band you need to watch them live, he provides so much of the group’s mood with his low-end bass it is impressive. Degan Thogerson would be sufficient behind the drum kit and multi-instrumentalist David Fountain would prove to be irreplaceable. Fountain pounds away on the keyboards as well as strumming mandolin, playing steel guitar, trumpet and providing the Murder By Death’s lone backing vocal.

Murder By Death preforms live at The Granada in Lawrence, Kansas on 3/31/16. Left to right: multi-instrumentalist David Fountain, cellist Sarah Balliet and lead singer/guitarist Adam Turla.

Murder By Death preforms live at The Granada in Lawrence, Kansas on 3/31/16. Left to right: multi-instrumentalist David Fountain, cellist Sarah Balliet and lead singer/guitarist Adam Turla.

The slower, acoustic “Shiola” and “Three Men Hanging” would prove to be set highlights before the thunderous closer of “I’m Coming Home” that works as a perfect closing song for a set. They would return to the stage for a short two song encore of “Spring Break 1899” and the seldom-performed request song “Killbot 2000” that is one of their oldest tunes. After the finally they collectively shrugged their shoulders at their unpredictable performance of the song before walking off stage for the final time, resulting in a strange ending to the show.

A good band pairing is essential to a show and this concert had it. Tim Barry and Murder By Death complimented each other nicely. Murder By Death have one of the more unique sounds you will find, like a cross between a throwback band and a halloween special. Their shows do infact prove Barry right, they are one of the hardest working bands around.

Murder By Death setlist from The Granada in Lawrence, KS 3/31/14

  • I Came Around
  • 52 Ford
  • The Curse of Elkhart
  • Strange Eyes
  • Big Dark Love
  • White Noise
  • Lost River
  • Foxglove
  • Steal Away
  • Natural Pearl
  • Shiola
  • Three Men Hanging
  • Brother
  • The Big Sleep
  • Dream In Red
  • Raw Deal
  • Until Morale Improves, The Beatings Will Continues
  • I’m Coming Home
  • Spring Break 1899
  • Killbot 2000

 

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