Bad Books – The Bowery Ballroom – February 20, 2013
Returning to the room where they made their live debut in 2010, the combo group of Bad Books put on an arresting show last night at The Bowery Ballroom. The visible difference this time around was how tight the band was, whether it was the louder, faster-paced “You Wouldn’t Have to Ask” or the blood-boiling simmer of “Please Move.” This was thanks to the band—Kevin Devine and the members of Manchester Orchestra—having another album’s worth of material and a bit more experience playing the songs together.
There was even a noticeable difference during the slow acoustic songs (which is not something new to singers Devine and Andy Hull, who have played together acoustically for years), and those moments were elevated by those in the attentive crowd embracing total silence, their gazes fixed on the two singers harmonizing onstage. It was the kind of special moment both frontmen have cultivated in their solo performances, and it was nice to see it translate to a slightly different setting.
The rapport shared by Devine and Hull is reason alone to see Bad Books perform, and that was an important part of the show as well. The two cracked jokes throughout the set, but their bizarre humor was never more evident than when Hull introduced a “new song” by claiming, “This is the first song that Kevin and I legitimately wrote together,” before easing into half of a cover of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Let Her Cry.” —Sean O’Kane