The Metro Gallery, Baltimore, MD
October 17, 2011
Aloud faced a problem after the release of its last album, Exile (which was one of my favorite records last year): The quieter, folk-inflected disc was such a radical departure from their usual big-hook alt rock that they had to completely rethink the songs to play them live. A year later, on a little jaunt down the east coast in anticipation of the November 1st release of their new single “The Cash and the Pearls,” the band seems to have taken the middle road between the two extremes, pumping post-punk fury into the songs from Exile and adding sophistocated softer textures to their back catalog.
Aloud’s live sound is simple and classic: lived-in harmonies from Henry Beguiristain and Jen de la Osa, crashing guitars, and a no-nonsense rhythm section (as long as you don’t consider bassist Charles Murphy’s energetic dancing “nonsense”). The group was breaking in a new drummer (Mike Tucker), who by now, at the last stop on their tour, was as much in tune with the rise and fall of the songs as the singers are with each others’ voices.
Standouts from their set were the reimagined “Darkest Days,” which, with the tempo bumped up and the guitars driven harder becomes simultaneously more triumphant and darker than the album version; “Exile in the Night,” a real showcase for de la Osa’s delay-drenched, almost hard-rock lead guitar (did I forget to mention how much she rocks?); and “Fan the Fury,” the title track of their previous disc, which came late enough in their set that the vocals had turned ragged. Beguiristain and de la Osa switched off onto piano occasionally, which broke up the set nicely.
It seems to be a perpetual problem for the Metro Gallery to look anything but empty outside of Friday and Saturday, and the opening act, a guy with a whiny voice, a synthesizer (which he hardly touched), and simplistic prerecorded beats, made no sense (he made even less sense than the night’s original third, local math rockers Time Columns). The lighting is uninspired and dark in the stage area, so I’ve given up any hope of getting usable pictures. But the Metro’s one of the only venues in Baltimore that actually has Monday shows, so I can’t complain too much.
This small crowd was paying attention, though, and was small enough that some banter would have given Aloud’s set more character. Some of their “thank yous” at the end of songs were a little premature, which sometimes made the set feel rote and unrelaxed. They waste no time in talking to people after they get off stage, so they don’t seem shy; they might just be used to the “just play your music” club crowd demands. But this reviewer likes to get to know the band during their set. It’s what takes a show from just good music to memorable.
—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)