Concert Review: Darlingside / Field Guide @ Spa Little Theatre, 12/3/2023
Darlingside has returned with a new album “Everything is Alive,” and as suggested by the album title, has resurrected the band’s tradition of beautiful sounds paired with poetic lyrics.
Caffe Lena hosted the fan favorite Darlingside at The Spa Little Theatre on Sunday night, offering a respite from the literal December rainstorm outside with a salve of thoughtful lyrics and sonically reassuring blends.
Starting with “Green Light,” the band came out with a message of hope and optimism. As the group moved between old and new songs, there was a reassurance that while they are exploring new ways of doing things, the quality of their songwriting has not only endured – but somehow expanded into a new frontier as well.
The trio of original band members were joined by Benjamin Burns on drum set (and sometimes guitar), Molly Parden and the indispensable Deni Hlavinka on keys and vocals. And while I was set to hate the new configuration of harmonies, I instead fell into a vortex of absolute admiration for the band’s powerful new sound.
Benjamin Burns’ steady presence on the drum set throughout some quieter classics amazed me in that he didn’t overwhelm the lush sound of the band, but instead seemed to be glue pulling it together.
With less chatter and more orchestral moments of tuning, Darlingside still maintained its charm with jokes from Harris Paseltiner about Saratoga Water’s blue bottle and Auyuon Mukharji’s introductions of the band (this time through hypothetical access of spa services, should they ever attend one).
But it was Don Mitchell’s vocals on “Lose the Keys” that may have stolen the show for me. The aching expression about loss invoked Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art,” and much like good art does, connected me to my own futile and mundane anger at loss with Mitchell’s vocalization of his beautiful lyrics.
It was hard to choose a single moment of greatness because there are many on this new album. “Down Here” is a gentle if not deeply philosophical statement about letting go of the past and being present, a message so many need especially during this nostalgic season. “Eliza I See” drew me in with repetitive lyrics reminding me of the transitory experience of living and all that we see.
The songs highlighted the three original band members by offering initially single voices that would reunite in harmony, mixing that pleasant sensation of lush consonance with the slightly unsettling experience of hearing truth.
The band ended the night with “God of Loss,” a beloved song from their 2015 Birds Say album. But even that performance, familiar in its orchestration, was different in its presentation, lifting the strings pitch up rather than down at the very end.
The audience brought band members back for an encore of “Ocean Bed” before releasing us back into the heavy rains outside. For a moment on Sunday, there was relief from the damp cold of the holiday season in Darlingside’s performance – both in the songs’ brutal honesty and consolatory harmonies.
Bravo to Darlingside for reinventing itself while somehow staying the same.