No one seemed more surprised by the turnout at the Marquis Theater on Saturday night than the seven members of Places. The CD-release show for the septet's new album, No More Wasted Days, drew a capacity crowd, and the audience's feverish and energetic response was overwhelming from the first chords of the band's opening song, "A Fine Line." Happily, it didn't take long for Places to get used to the dense crowd or the coordinated applause.
Saturday's show felt like a hometown victory for a band that's undergone major evolution in the past year, having finally settled in Denver after years spent trudging between Colorado and Montana. With guitarists Brian Martin and Jon Hatridge added in the past year, the outfit seems to have finalized a configuration and solidified its musical approach, a maturity that showed in the fifteen-song set at the Marquis.
Buoyed by a trio of opening acts that offered similar strains of pop, folk and rock, Places offered a spot-on delivery of its lush and layered sound. From Tyler Glasgow's sterling lead vocals to brothers Drew and Checkers Barker's paired drum solos, the band showed just why a seven-part dynamic works so well for this group.
The performance drew freely from both No More Wasted Days and Where We Are Right Now, the group's freshman release from 2010. Older tunes like "The Straight Talk," "Streetlight" and "Love Someone" sounded fuller with the addition of Martin's electric and Hatridge's twelve-string, while selections from the new album popped with an unmistakable energy. The enthusiastic fans singing along and crowing for more songs added to the energy, while songs like "The Fire" and "Walking on Water" boasted a maturity in structure and instrumentation.
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Some of the most impressive moments of the evening came in the coordinated drum solos by brothers Drew and Checkers Barker. Set up on opposite sides of the small stage, the Barkers launched into complementary drum flights during songs like "Still on My Mind," instrumental stretches that featured call-and-response rhythms and dual percussion lines driven by notable fraternal interplay.
Glasgow has pointed out that Places doesn't shy away from accessibility, and that notion was illustrated clearly with covers of the Police's "Message in a Bottle," the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," and the final tune of the evening, a rousing version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" that had the entire room singing along. Combined with the tight structures and rich harmonies of the band's new material, such covers gave the performance a celebratory and intimate feel.
The Canopy, Be Brave and Regret Night warmed up the stage for Places, offering a varied and fitting introduction for the headliners and lending this CD-release show the feel of a local pop festival. The Canopy showed a combination of poppy grooves and emotive vocals, while Be Brave's emphasis on distorted lead lines and rhythmic samples gave its set an edgier push.
Because of the demands of getting four acts on and off stage in a timely manner, Regret Night's set was cut somewhat short. Still, the outfit gave an energized and enthusiastic performance, with lead players circulating around the stage and pumping up the audience for Places' headlining set.
Personal Bias: The Marquis's tight layout combined with the capacity audience made me feel a bit claustrophobic during the first three-quarters of the show. I got used to the constant elbows in my side and the clogged hallways by the time Places took to the stage.
By the Way: Glasgow served as producer for the latest studio effort from Regret Night.
Random Detail: Places' self-appointed status as a family band was clear in literal and figurative senses on Saturday. The Barker brothers' parents and Glasgow's father were in the crowd, singing along and offering moral support.
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