Thursday, July 24, 2014

Merge 25 Night 1: Lambchop, Mount Moriah, William Tyler

The big Merge 25th anniversary festival kicked off last night with a trio of mellower Merge acts in the recently renovated Baldwin Auditorium on Duke University's East Campus.

Soft-spoken guitarist William Tyler let his guitars do the talking as he kicked things off with a short yet stunning set featuring four of his guitar pieces including a new one dubbed "Going Clear." The big room complemented his beautiful playing adding fullness to the acoustic pieces and a wall of sound to the electric pieces, particularly the final song "Tears and Saints." He expressed his appreciation to Merge Records and noted that the Triangle has become a home away from home, particularly in recent years.

Next up were local stars Mount Moriah who opted to use the majority of their set to show off new material from their forthcoming new album, which Heather McEntire said that they are recording. The new music was bookended by "Bright Light" and "Plane" and also included the title track from their Merge debut Miracle Temple. The new music is fantastic and makes me excited to hear the new album.

At times the formal and very live room more suited for quieter music couldn't quite handle the louder, rock elements of the band's music. Either way though the band sounded great and McEntire has gotten much more confident as a frontwoman over the years, which is great to see.

Last but certainly not least were the evening's headliners Lambchop, who performed their recently reissued album Nixon in its entirety. As the band took the stage it was all business as they rolled through the album in order with little to no breaks or banter between songs. They sounded fantastic, performing as an expanded version of the band that toured in support of their latest album Mr. M, including the album's original guitarist and pedal steel player Paul Niehaus.

The set was very different from the band's raucous, show-stopping set at XX Merge five years ago but a repeat wasn't expected. This night celebrated Nixon and included some touching words about it from Kurt Wagner after the set. He noted that performing the entire album is something they won't do very often. Just like Lambchop's music, the set was hard to describe but it truly excellent to behold.

After playing the album and talking about it a bit, the band returned for a groovy one-song encore of their version of the Curtis Mayfield song "Give Me Your Love (Love Song)" from the album What Another Man Spills. It was a fun, funky close to a mostly low key, serious evening.

William Tyler set list
We Can't Go Home Again
Terrace of the Leper King
Going Clear
Tears and Saints

Mount Moriah set list
Bright Light
Eureka Springs
Miracle Temple Holiness

Lambchop set list
The Old Gold Shoe
You Masculine You
Up With People
Nashville Parent
What Else Could It Be?
The Distance From Her to There
The Book I Haven't Read
The Petrified Florist
The Butcher Boy
Give Me Your Love (Love Song)

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