Knox Hamilton – Bowery Ballroom (New York, NY)
You may recall my review from just this past March of Knox Hamilton’s debut full-length album, The Heights; it started off like this: “Let me get this out of the way early – Knox Hamilton’s The Heights sets the Album of the Year bar extremely high for all other artists to follow in 2017.”
Now while I completely stand by that statement, that set an impossibly high bar for this band – or any band for that matter – to attain from an in-person performance. This is a story of how Josh (that’s me) listened to an album way too many times and forgot to sit back and enjoy the natural, organic flow of a set list and how and why that’s different from a track list.
So let’s go back in time to late last week. With Knox Hamilton coming to town I was very (very) excited to finally see them perform and headed to Bowery Ballroom on Friday evening with all internal knobs tuned to 11, and by the time Boots Copeland (guitar/vocals) and Co – that would be Cobo Copeland (drums), Drew Buffington (guitar), and Marcus Rutherford (bass) – took the stage, I was ready to dive in to a live rendition of this album I’ve been listening to for weeks.
But then a strange thing happened; the versions of these songs they were playing were just a little different from the studio versions – a little bit louder and heavier, and played with a little too much force. The lovely little subtleties of “Set It On Fire” and “Call Me Up” and the finer notes of the already heavier “Back Porch”, including a great little percussive fill, were replaced by the musical equivalent of trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. When combined with some rough-around-the-edges audio issues, I was shocked out of the moment, to say the least.
The midpoint of their set featured “the only ballad we’ve ever written” – that would be “The Heights” – and proved to be a turning point for the evening. From that point on the band all seemed to play with more energy and confidence, feeding off of the still-coming-in crowd. The last four songs in particular – “Pretty Way to Fight”, “Sight For Sore Eyes”, “Work It Out”, and “Washed Up Together” – were an utter joy to witness, providing all of the elements of the signature Knox Hamilton-brand of rock and roll that has gotten them to this point.
While this performance wasn’t perfect – an impossible task, and god knows my expectations could certainly be more appropriately leveled next time – I am left with only one thought as I look back after a few days to reflect: I need to see this band again.
Dear Knox Hamilton, come back to New York City soon. Love, Josh.
(Show Date: 4/28/2017)