PHOTOS/REVIEW: Railroad Earth – Fillmore Auditorium 1/18/2014

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:: Railroad Earth ::
:: Fillmore Auditorium ::
:: January 18, 2014 ::

Photos and words by Derek Miles

Railroad Earth’s duo of shows at the Fillmore was an album release celebration of their latest effort Last of the Outlaws. They even made a short appearance on Friday, Jan. 17 at Twist and Shout records to further promote the album. With a dedicated fan base expanding every year, 2014 looks promisingly fruitful for the band in their thirteenth year, clearly an opportune time for both newly introduced fans and well traveled ‘Hobos’, of which the most devout fans are dubbed.

Saturday night’s performance read like a fine American novel. Todd Sheaffer’s songs evoked detailed imagery of microcosmic folk worlds, tales of colorful characters and landscapes of the Great West. Portraits of adventure are scrawled in sound by melodic strings and a beating heart that is the rhythm section. Boisterous yips and cheers welcomed “Old Man and the Land” during the first set; a song that typifies Sheaffer’s craft. The song tells of a man who becomes enraptured by a ‘lay of land’ to which he vows to spend the rest of his days. It is a marriage, if you will, of Mother Nature to humankind.

“Goat” highlighted the first set as an extended tune with a slinky groove in the middle passage on which Andrew Altman (bass) and Tim Carbone (violin) really shine. The band grew soft after the first slew of lyrics and builds slowly. Guided by Carbone’s caterwauling violin swells, the rest of the band crescendoed until Altman ushered in a seriously funky bass line. However, this isn’t your James Brown or Meters bass line. This groove is stringy and singular to Railroad Earth; entirely un-contrived or derivative. A colorful jam ensued with Andy Goessling on tenor sax. The newly penned “Hangtown Ball” and classic “Cold Water” finished out the first set and the audience is given pause from a well paced collection of songs.

As the restrooms filled to maximum occupancy and drinks were refilled, the smoky open air settled inside the Fillmore. Folks bustled back to their spots or sought a new vantage point in anticipation of the second set. “Can’t stand on the stairs!” “Stay in front of the white line!” were dictated to wandering cattle by the Fillmore staff. They run a tight ship, and what sometimes comes off as Draconian or an insensitive command, the staff does bring order to the chaos. I’ll admit that they might do their jobs a little too well, however, ‘tis the nature of the beast.

“Peace on Earth” started out the second set. Happily lilting in its delivery, the song provided a good warm-up but lacked the punch that one comes to expect out of the beginning of the second set. The band continued in major key to the well-loved and uplifting “Like a Buddha.” Railroad picked up steam from here on out; the wheels were greased and rolling smooth. “Hunting Song” was the next heavy hitter. The song is a dark saga of brushes with death and a boy’s turmoil with killing wild animals. Textured improvisation and hypnotic beat make this song stand out in Railroad Earth’s repertoire, always a welcome song in the second set. The band then segued into the title track of the new album “Last of the Outlaws.” The band impressively layered the new songs with the old. The varied tempos throughout the setlist gave an organic flow, much like breathing.

Also from the new album, Railroad ended the set by presenting their new opus, a suite of instrumental movements similar to a classical composition yet also very progressive. This material was exceptionally well played and stunningly different from any other Railroad songs. This was the first time the suite was performed live and they knocked it out of the park. Fans live for this kind of stuff. The Doors “Roadhouse Blues” prompted a hearty sing along for encore and the night came to an end. But less we forget the notion that what we experienced was journey — a trip across the laurels of a folk world.

Set 1:
Drag Him Down
Mourning Flies
Just So You Know
Old Man and the Land
When the Sun Gets in Your Blood
Goat
Hangtown Ball
Cold Water

Set 2:
Peace on Earth
Like a Buddha
Mission Man (A)
Been Down THis Road
The Hunting Song
The Last of the Outlaws
Walls of Time
Crossing the Gap
The Forecast
All That’s Dead May Live Again –> (B)
Introit –> ( C)
Tuba Mirum –>
Lacrimosa –> ( D)
Dies Irae –> ( C)
Face With a Hole –>
In Paradisum ( C)

Encore:
Roadhouse Blues

(A) with Dan Sears on flugelhorn
(B) First time played, written by Todd Sheaffer
(C) First time played, written by John Skehan
(D) First time played, written by Todd Sheaffer and John Skehan

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