March 3, 2023

Big Thief played Radio City Music Hall

Big Thief wrapped up their latest tour by playing to a sold-out crowd at the legendary Radio City Music Hall.

Classifying the music of Big Thief has never been an easy task. On a single record, they can range from folk to country to rock, all of which was, perhaps, best heard on last year's phenomenal record Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. As they took the stage at New York's iconic Radio City Music Hall to close out their most recent tour, it felt like a monumental moment for the band, one which they'd acknowledge at length towards the end of the show, but one that would also let their songs speak for themselves and set the band up to be placed as one of the best of their generation. "Certainty" opened the night and kicked things off with a twang as furious joy and an early showmanship from Adrianne Lenker saw the singer add some ad-lib lyrics to the track as she became engulfed in the moment, an early sign that the night was off to a special start. "Cattails" came next and honed in on their folk elements, the closeness and tight-knit songwriting of the band shining through with absolute fortitude and again made the start of the night an early promise that we were in for something rather magical. New song "Horsepower" followed and segued the band into their more straightforward-indie rock mentality, another signal from the group that they're still performing at a level above most others as they continue to write songs at such a rapid clip. With three albums in four years and a plethora of solo projects under their belt, Big Thief are operating at a prolific rate, their illustrious songwriting skills seeming to know no bounds, the band also never giving in to any urge to slow down, but rather one to keep up this incredible pace before it all comes crashing down. On stage, the band don't always give off the confidence when they address the crowd directly as they do when they allow the music to just come through their amps, their attitude and charm almost juvenile at times, but again, what they may lack in stage banter, they clearly make up for in absolutely dominating performance technique. "Simulation Swarm" was another cathartic moment that still felt intimate despite the enormity of the space, but from there, things turned up and the band entered a new phase that would remain for the remainder of the show. As they've been doing, they cranked things up for the new rendition of "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You" which hits with an intense punch and massive guitar sound that'll surely knock out anyone expecting the much more subdued version heard on record, however after hearing this reworking, it's nearly impossible to go back and listen to the one we're left with at home. What came next was, to me, the pinnacle of the night as the band played "Sparrow" during which Adrianne Lenker displayed superhuman talents of vocal expression. Moving from the track's usual range to a deep baritone gave new depth to the song, but as she then transitioned into a stunning falsetto before unleashing a scream so powerful it seemed to knock the wind out of everyone in the theatre, it became instantly clear that this was something extraordinary and again affirmed the band's status as not just a remarkable talent, but one that may come to define the era. New song "Vampire Empire" again found the band hitting their comfort zone, a status most others would be envious to achieve, before launching into the anthemic fan favorite "Not." As the crushing guitar ripped throughout the auditorium, Lenker took her boldest steps yet to take her place at the edge of the stage as she wailed through an epic solo of knotted guitar that shook the building with endless promise. Dragging it out at length only emphasized the song's weight and cemented its status as their show stopping moment. Lenker then took a long pause to acknowledge the accomplishment of being able to play to a room of such stature and thanked a long list of those who've helped the band reach this height before remarking that if it all went away tomorrow, or as she said, "if we make a flop," to which guitarist Buck Meek added "it's coming, don't worry!", the group would carry-on regardless and play to a room of five people because the bond between them is special enough to outlast the fame. It was a moment that felt slightly awkward, but in the end humbling and one I chose to take with a positive view and appreciation of gratitude. For a band that seems to show no sign of slowing down, something which will seemingly benefits fans to no end, their love for what they do is without question apparent and being able to see them bring these epic songs to life in front of their largest crowd yet really was something special. If they can continuously capture moments and feelings like the ones they brought forth tonight, there is nothing that seems capable of stopping them from being the biggest act in the game.

01 "Certainty"
02 "Cattails"
03 "Horsepower"
04 "Simulation Swarm"
05 "Flower of Blood"
06 "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You"
07 "Sparrow"
08 "Dried Roses"
09 "Vampire Empire"
10 "Not"
11 "Contact"
12 "Masterpiece"
13 "Spud Infinity"
14 "Change"

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