Twin Shadow and Total War

Twin Shadow and Total War-attachment0

Last Friday’s Twin Shadow-plus-Niki and The Dove-plus-Total War show at The Orange Peel had its highs and lows, its moments of grandeur and of not-so-grandeur.

The saddest part was that electro-pop group Niki and The Dove related via Facebook, just a few hours before show time, “Hello all, we are very sad to announce that we have to cancel our show in Asheville tonight. Malin has a sore throat and has lost her voice. Frustrating that we won’t be able to play for you. Hope for another chance.” An announcement may have been made at the start of the show (I missed it by a few minutes), but I (along with most of the crowd) learned that N&D wouldn’t be there only because Twin Shadow started right after local opener Total War. It was a “huh?” moment.

Asheville-based electro-indie-rock trio Total War are relative newcomers (their past shows on their website date back to late ‘09, but their first two years comprise just four performances, all in Sylva), but they played with finesse and conviction. Front man Jeremy Rose sings with a warble (he calls himself the band’s “squawker/mangler” on his Facebook page; his vocal style brings to mind Conor Oberst’s rangey yelp), but also with a lot of power.

Bassist Ory Petty is almost the foil to Rose’s bombast and twitch. Petty’s style is quiet and efficient in motion if not in volume. He provides background vocals, too. Themes in the band’s music are of youth and uncertainly. The drive to get somewhere, to accomplish something, but what? Adam Woleslagle’s percussion adds the urgency and immediacy that catapults Rose’s lyrics into palpable, emotive intensity. “But here you are, and you’re stumbling down the street toward my house. And something I see in your eyes makes me think you might see something in mine,” Rose sang on “All You Have Tonight.”

It’s an angsty/hopeful mix, balancing polished and raw, practiced and rough. The band finished with a new song that they said had never played in front of an audience before. It had some tricky time signature changes and jazz touches; the overall sound recalled Psychedelic Furs’ “Heartbreak Beat.”

Slide show by Rich Orris

Twin Shadow, the new wave-revivalist band led by George Lewis, Jr., followed after a quick set up. You can read about Lewis here. The band is on tour in support of Confess (read a review here). And, though Lewis told Xpress that his touring band was still working out the album’s tracks for the live show, they pretty much stuck to those new songs at the Orange Peel.

The stage was tricked out with smoke machine clouds and projections of shadowy acrobatic performances on either side of the band. Twin Shadow opened with “Golden Light,” Lewis’ hair slicked into his trademark pompadour.

“Five Seconds,” the single (of sorts) from Confess sounded heavy and boomy with a bassy intensity. The guitar recreated the churning engine of a motorcycle — so important to the aesthetic of the song and the album as a whole. And the song (as Twin Shadow’s music tends to) hinted at Springsteen. This was not a tribute, but a distillation — something at which Lewis excels. That, and the controlled tension between forcefulness and softness.

“Run My Heart” started quiet, with a heart-beat drum part and a mellow melody. It was only at the chorus that Lewis allowed his voice to soar. Something seemed to go awry in that song, though. Atmospheric parts extended too long — perhaps a jam that didn’t quite work, perhaps the band just lost the thread of the song.

That wasn’t the only misstep. Lewis gave several shout outs to “North Carolina,” announcing it was “the most beautiful state in the whole country,” which seemed, instead of endearing, like he didn’t know what city he was in. On the other hand, Lewis gives off the vibe of a performer who doesn’t worry about small gaffes. He’s the rockstar answer to dressing for success — where some performers give the impression that they’re not convinced of their own greatness, Lewis’ air is, instead, of someone who’s always believed he was a super star and has just been waiting for the rest of the world to catch on.

That makes for a great stage show. Lewis and his band motored through “Beg For The Night” with velvet-voiced Peter Murphy-style theatrics, and then the stinging, dark, “I Don’t Care.” The latter changed time signature into a faster, harder beat before slowing back into a cloyingly-romantic finish.

Twin Shadow’s set was a quick eleven songs. The band return to the stage for a one-song encore (“At My Heels”), during which Lewis encouraged the audience to remove their shirts and swing them around in the air while he sang. About half of the crowd (mostly guys) went along with it — which made for a slightly awkward and anti-climactic moment when the house lights came up.

Photos by Rich Orris.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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