[Live Review] Marnie Stern at 529, 10/28/2010 (setlist)

Above is a picture of Marnie Stern’s setlist from last Thursday’s show at 529.  Most of those songs are from her recently released self-titled album, which is good.  I think it’s probably her best album to date, and I thought the first two were both pretty incredible.

This was also the best show I’ve seen her play (an honor that’s also drawn from a pool of three).  She’s always seemed to enjoy herself on stage, but there was an energy up there on Thursday night that I didn’t really see either of the times I had seen her previously.  It might have something to do with her current backing band, with whom she seems to have a lot of chemistry.  They tore through her very complicated songs without any real difficulty, and the banter between her and bassist Nithin Kalvakota was an obvious sign that this is a group that enjoys touring and playing together.  It’s enough to make you almost forget superhuman Zach Hill drums on her records.

All that positivity adds a new shade to her songs, too.  There’s some heavy material on the new record (she’s said that at least two of the songs deal with an ex-boyfriend that committed suicide), but her live presence is far from depressing.  Her confession that “all [her] ex-boyfriends have treated [her] like dirt” raised an eyebrow, too.  This actually worked in the music’s favor.  Instead of undercutting the songs, it just complicated them a bit.  Her lyrics are already great at dealing with ambivalence, and the positive vibes mixed with the weightier content just brought that out even more.

Of course, you can enjoy her music without getting all egghead, too.  She’s one of the most exciting guitarists in indie rock right now, and it’s just straight up fun listening to her play.

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