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Sometimes Bad Books Are Really Good

October 21st, 2010

Bad Books – The Bowery Ballroom – October 20, 2010

Bad Books - The Bowery Ballroom - October 20, 2010
They fumbled while tuning their guitars, nervously laughed through some banter and shouted out chord changes to one another a few times. But these signs of a new band didn’t faze the experienced members of Bad Books. “Guys, I feel awesome right now,” said cofrontman Andy Hull as they began their first-ever show. Along with Kevin Devine (who helped open the CMJ Music Marathon the night before), the members of the Manchester Orchestra make up what is known as Bad Books, a new band that Hull was sure to explain was not a side project.

As they played through their set last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the band shook off first-show jitters and began to belt out incredible material from their self-titled debut album. Up to four of the six members would sing at times, with Devine and Hull splitting the lead duties. Devine took the lead on a few joyous-sounding songs like (as they joked) their “hit single,” “You Wouldn’t Have to Ask,” and “Holding Down the Laughter.” Hull, meanwhile, was in charge of the louder, grittier fare, like “Please Move,” but also the most hushed moments: It’s a thing of beauty to watch him quiet a room with just a guitar and his voice (which he also did in an opening slot with his other other solo band, Right Away, Great Captain!).

The main set ended with a song called “Texas,” which featured just Devine and Hull, with the latter singing on guitar and the former shrouded in darkness on the drums. The entire band reformed for an encore with the 9:45 p.m. curfew looming, but instead of cutting a few songs, they smilingly hurried through them all, furiously playing a few of their own tunes from those other bands like a kid trying to finish his homework before class. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com