Review Summary: A great mix of new live nuances and direct studio transcriptions, dredg offers something for each of their fans. It will certainly serve as great filler between Catch Without Arms and their next studio offering.
The Fillmore in San Francisco is a legendary venue. The CBGB’s of psychedelic, the Fillmore Auditorium housed the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and many other classics as they got their start. Later, after the psychedelic music of the 60s and 70s died away, the wave of California punk bands began seeing their days in The Fillmore, although it renamed itself as The Elite Club. Among others, The Dead Kennedys brought themselves up in The Elite Club. In 1991, the venue changed its name back to the original and became a popular venue in San Francisco. It’s no huge arena and only seats just over 1,000 people. In that essence, it suits dredg perfectly. While the band certainly has the ability to produce enough energy to make a crowd of tens of thousands go crazy, their music suits a more secluded venue.
This live album takes the listener through a rollercoaster ride of intensity. Dredg obviously prepared for this concert extensively, putting together a perfect setlist, grouping their most energetic songs together along with the mellowest together. What’s more, dredg worked out transitions from song to song to make gigantic sections of the concert flow like one. The band knows where their strengths lie and they put it all together with an extremely smart setlist. Aside from The Warbler
, which serves as an orchestrated sound check more than a song, the band opens with their two most popular songs, Bug Eyes
and Ode to the Sun
. Both of which produce great energy and pull the crowd in immediately. The crowd goes wild when they hear Gavin push out the memorable ascending slide guitar line and the band shows that their studio quality translates directly into their live quality. The instrumental balance of the band comes across almost as well as it does on the studio recordings. A listener hears everything come through and certain aspects stand out when needed. The band plays pretty much directly from the recording on the opening songs simply because they can. Dredg composed Catch Without Arms in such a way that the band could perform everything live.
El Cielo falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. Each song on El Cielo took extreme studio precision to work with multiple tracks of instruments and layers upon layers of melodies. After the opening sequence, dredg plays through the first five tracks of El Cielo in succession (besides the ambient intro under a minute). The band manages to create the dense sound, relying much on delay effects from guitarist Mark Engles. However, drummer Dino Campanella often changes the feel of the songs throughout, if only for a split second. He adds great variety to the tracks and leads the band through many dynamic changes. Meanwhile, vocalist Gavin Hayes and bassist Drew Roulette play directly from the studio recordings. It seems to take a while for Gavin to step into his aura and really get into his concert, giving a pretty emotionless performance throughout Same Ol’ Road
. In Sanzen
, he picks up the slack a bit but he doesn’t reach his full potential until Triangle
, where the entire band enters a whole new echelon of live performance. Using various vocal samples not heard on El Cielo and stepping into a trance-like feel. They play with the crowd for a bit, pausing before jumping into the second movement and disregarding the crowd’s beckoning. However, from where the band comes back in, Triangle
stands out as one of the best tracks on the album.
After a slight rise in energy from The Tanbark Is Hot Lava
, easily the most energetic song ever from the band, the most consistent section of the concert arrives. Dredg enters another section of El Cielo songs, the more mellow ones. Whoa Is Me
features a guest saxophonist to solo throughout the song and it grooves much like a secluded jazz club. Even Of The Room
, one of the most dynamic songs from the band, finds a toned down interpretation. Even through the recording, the laid-back feel that dredg attempts to create comes through nicely. The laid-back style capitulates in a fantastic rendition of the more electronic-based Sang Real
and The Ornament
. After a short melodic interlude, Sang Real
jumps into full beautiful form. It features some slightly different piano chord voicings from Dino throughout, but the main drum beat and piano sample remain the same from the recording. The Ornament
builds upon the use of piano for a sparse, beautiful song. The song is an expansion off of the closing of Matroshka
at the end of Catch Without Arms. The Ornament
stands out as the ultimate low on the album in intensity but one of the highs in excellence.
But that is really nothing to leave fans with at a concert. Luckily, dredg possesses one song that transfers from that sparseness to extreme intensity, The Canyon Behind Her
. The live rendition of one of dredg’s fullest songs lacks the wall of sound produced by the studio chorus, but in a way, it works. Dredg executes the uptempo verses perfectly, with Dino creating excellent fills throughout. The climax where the song switches into 6/8 serves its purpose of raising the intensity and nothing more. As the recording of the choir ending plays over the PA, the band transfers into Yatahaze
, a little taste of Leitmotif to send fans off. Easily the heaviest song played in the concert, Yatahaze
along with 90 Hour Sleep
, the outro for the song which capitulates in an accelerando which Dino leads through an energizing rock beat. Live at the Fillmore showcases songs from every album dredg recorded as well as a few B-sides from Catch Without Arms. They composed a setlist of excellence that rises and falls in intensity with a masterful presence. It is an excellent representation of the live dredg, showing the band playing together with excellence and their experience together shines. It certainly serves for putting space between Catch Without Arms and their new release slated for 2007.
The Tanbark Is Hot Lava