Mile High Makeout: The Power of Focus

Photo: Liam Maloney

On more than one occasion in this column, I’ve sung the praises of shows that include two, four, six different bands. I just love the orgiastic excess of catching a litter of great acts all in one night and in one venue. It’s like going to a carnival and riding all the rides, or petting all the animals in the petting zoo, or grabbing a free tasting spoon of every gelato. When the options are all there, why wouldn’t you?

But there’s also something to be said for a little focus from time to time. I wouldn’t want to do it every night, but this week, I actually went to a show and basically watched only one band. That band was the Dears – not a Denver group, but one of my personal favorites, and an outfit I’ve been wanting to catch live for years. I won’t go into a lot of specifics about the band (you can get those in the feature article I wrote), but let me tell you something about the act’s live show.

First of all, and most obviously, there’s Murray Lightburn, the ensemble’s auteur and frontman. Possessed of all the passion, melodrama and charisma you’d ever want in a bandleader, the man who has been called “Morrissey noir” commanded attention without ever having to demand it. His flawlessly emotive voice soared above the dense, symphonic arrangements with a clarity and power that cut through even the meanest of mixes.

Then there was the chemistry between Lightburn and his paramour and only consistent collaborator, Natalia Yanchak. They’re an unlikely couple, but when they occasionally locked eyes and voices on stage, their bond was undeniable and the effect was captivating. And that’s to say nothing of the other members of the band. While the members of this particular lineup of the Dears are still getting to know each other, you wouldn’t have guessed from the tight arrangements and heartfelt performances. When the short set found its end, I couldn’t help whooping and hollering helplessly for more.

But the Dears weren’t the headliner, and so the unwieldy gang of lovers quickly cleared the stage to make way for the Secret Machines. A friend of mine, who’d come along at my insistence, took the opportunity to excuse himself and get home to his wife and a good night’s sleep. I applauded his decision, but felt compelled to stick around for the ostensible main attraction.

By the second song of the Secret Machines’ set, I regretted my decision. Not that there was anything wrong with the band’s somewhat derivative take on psychedelic pop, but my eyes, ears, brain and heart still wanted to digest and devour the Dears’ magnificent performance. With any other lineup, I might have gladly sunk my teeth into the Secret Machines, but, as Martin Gore once said, not tonight. After about four songs, I headed home.

The next morning, I ran into my friend, the one who left immediately after the Dears. He thanked me for introducing him to the group and then told me how happy he was to have gone to a show, seen one really great band and gotten home in time for a good night’s sleep. Like George Costanza, he really felt he went out on a high note.

As I thought about it throughout the day, I realized how much I agreed with him. An experience like the Dears’ live show deserves to be isolated and savored with one’s full attention. In our multitasking, omnivorous and polyamorous lives, we sometimes forget how much power there is in focusing on just one experience at a time, and wringing out of it all the meaning, sensuality and complexity it can yield. – Eryc Eyl

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera