Crooked Fingers is one of my favorite bands. Red Devil Dawn was my favorite album of 2003. The best part about seeing them live is that Eric Bachmann (lead singer & mastermind) is always changing things up. No two tours are ever alike, as songs are re-arranged and rotated. Heck, I still haven't seen him play with the same lineup twice!
This particular show at the Crocodile was augmented by the presence of the girls from Azure Ray: Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink. Both Orenda & Maria assisted on the first two Crooked Fingers albums, and Eric produced their last two albums. Maybe it was an aspect of having the girls help out as one-half of his backing band, or maybe it's just where his songwriting is directed at the moment, but almost all of the songs were piano-driven.
While the band occasionally rocked out, it was just as common to see Eric (clean-shaven for the first time in recent memory) at the keyboard, the guitarist switching to upright bass, and the drummer using soft mallets or wire brushes. The female presence on backup vocals also added a nice, new contrast to Eric's usually gruff baritone. It was a decent-sized crowd for a Tuesday night, and everyone seemed to confusedly appreciate the new direction.
They started with two new songs, both quiet but with the same dark lyrics Eric has perfected. In-between songs, Dov joked that they were starting a new miltary group — The Irish Jewish Republican Army With A Latin Flair. The band then broke into "You Threw a Spark" with Maria providing the trumpet lines that truly set the song apart.
On the previous tour, the band would drag their instruments down into the audience and play a couple of songs without using the PA. This time around, Eric did something similar for "There's A Blue Light". It's a song that he usually performs by himself, singing the lyrics through a megaphone while a pre-recorded melody backs him. This time, as the music started, the band left the stage and Eric came out of the "green room" and sang. As soon it was over, he ran back onto the stage and picked up his electric guitar, which offered a different look at their unique sound. For some songs, instead of grabbing a banjo (which he's done before), he'd just pick on his guitar.
In a change from past tours, the audience wasn't treated to any cover songs. Crooked Fingers has had a reputation for providing their own interpretation of songs, from Prince's "When U Were Mine" to New Order's "Age of Consent". While there was none of that, Eric did pull out a very old song to close the set. To this point, it always seemed as if he was trying to consciously avoid any comparisons to his old band, and concentrate on the new sounds and textures. This tour, however, he's performing "Chumming The Ocean" from the Archers of Loaf album All the Nation's Airports. It was a nice way to acknowledge his past fitting into his present.
Though Eric & Dov joked about playing a Black Sabbath song to start the encore, it was just a beautifully quiet take on Crooked Finger's own "You Can Never Leave". While this song usually features a rousing, rocking crescendo of a chorus, they chose to leave it minimized this time around. The night ended with Eric performing a solo version of "A Little Bleeding".
If you get the chance, don't miss this band the next time they play. Since Eric now lives in Seattle, hopefully there will be a lot more opportunities.