Concert Review: The Faint, Bright Eyes, Cursive (August 17, 2001, Omaha, NE)

The Faint are a rock band, first and foremost, and it’s obvious they love playing their music in front of a crowd.

My friend Clint called it the “concert of the year.” I don’t know about that, but it certainly was impressive. The three biggest bands in Nebraska — as far as the whole indie/underground scene goes — converging on Sokol Hall at once. But what was even more special was that this was the The Faint’s CD release party for Danse Macabre. Sure, I’d already seen The Faint twice this summer, but a CD release party in front of the hometown crowd? There was no reason for missing that!

This was The Faint’s night. So much so, in fact, that Cursive and Bright Eyes were almost cursory. I’d never seen Cursive before, which seems odd to me, so I was looking forward to them simply out of curiosity. Unfortunately, they didn’t deliver the intensity that I was prepared for. Perhaps, as Clint said, it was the venue. Their sound didn’t seem to do anything. With the amount of emotion they pour into their CDs, I was expecting a whole lot more than I got. One caveat, though. Cursive closed out their set with a brilliant cover of “Come On Eileen,” and wouldn’t you know it, Tim Kasher nailed it. And having The Faint’s Todd Baechle chime in and dance around didn’t hurt.

Of course, I kept running into friends during Cursive’s set, so that might’ve been part of it. I thought many of my friends were going to a Planes Mistaken For Stars show going on that night, so imagine my surprise (and delight) when they kept appearing out of the crowd. Like I’ve said before, nothing brings people together like The Faint.

I fail to see the fuss over Bright Eyes. If anything, this show proved to me that the emperor has no clothes. Conor was on top of his game, I suppose, acting more melodramatic than necessary. Mr. Oberst, I know I’ve never played CMJ, I’ve never toured Europe, and I’ve never made a career out of my neuroses. But I do know this: If you’re going to throw your chair around, storm offstage, and have the gall to ask people in the back to quiet down, you need to earn it. The general consensus from everyone I talked to? Underwhelming… and too long.

But enough of that. Because it was all about The Faint that night, despite what a certain Lincoln newspaper might’ve said. The curtains hid the stage as the Faint set up their arsenal of synths, fog machines, and strobes, and we headed to the front. If you’re not in the thick of a Faint show, you’re missing out. You’ll never dance harder, and you need to be where the action is. The curtains finally pulled back, the band strolled out (clad in black, as usual), and the night’s real show began.

I’ve seen The Faint four times now, and this was the best performance of them all. It was also the longest Faint set I’ve seen, ending with a three-song encore and their big “hit” (“Worked Up So Sexual”), as well as a mass dance orgy on stage. Unlike a lot of “electronic” artists, The Faint really are best seen live. Forget the fact that they’ve traded in the Les Pauls for Korgs. The Faint are a rock band, first and foremost, and it’s obvious they love playing their music in front of a crowd. And they really loved playing it for the hometown crowd.

Much of the set was devoted, not too surprisingly, to material off of Danse Macabre. Despite being far darker and more twisted than their previous releases, it’s also far more danceable and accessible. And I’m always impressed at how well they’re able to pull it off live, everytime. There were a few snafus here and there, but as far as that night’s vibe is concerned, it was flawless.

You may not know who The Faint are, or if you do, you may not know why people like me rave about them so much. The reason is because of performances like this. Their CDs are great, but it’s on stage where The Faint got it going on. And with an upcoming fall tour taking them across the U.S. and into Canada, you’ll soon have a chance to find out why for yourself.

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