Live Review: Shearwater’s World Tour Kickoff Show at ND in Austin

Shearwater_020316-8Long-time Shearwater fans rejoice: a new album recently arrived via Sub Pop, and the group’s hometown show at the ND last Wednesday, kicked off a tour that will make stops in the U.S., Europe, and Canada. The packed show was supported by another Austin band, Marmalakes, whose drummer Josh Halpern will also serve as Shearwater’s drummer for the upcoming tour.

Marmalakes_020316-3Marmalakes rocked through a mostly upbeat set of melodic indie-pop songs to begin the night. The group recently lost bassist Max Colonna, who relocated to Georgia, but Marmalakes still maintained the tight pop arrangements that has garnered them so many fans over the years. Frontman Chase Weinacht has the ability to croon soft acoustic numbers one moment and bounce around the stage to an energetic rock song the next. Halpern’s excellent drumming holds the band together, and his prowess makes clear the reason Shearwater recruited him.

Shearwater_020316-9As the first notes of Shearwater’s opening song “Prime” rang out, towers of radiant color illuminated the stage. Over the years, Shearwater has transitioned from something of a folk band, to a chamber rock band, to a hybrid of prog rock and art rock. In every case, the band has always created dynamic, arresting songs grounded by frontman Jonathan Meiburg’s impressive voice. Now, Shearwater has extended their live show to utilize distinct lighting that creates a more immersive experience. Shearwater takes nuance and detail seriously, a trait evidenced by both their songs and their stage presence. Wednesday’s performance leaned heavily on songs from Shearwater’s recently released Jet Plane and Oxbow, with “You As You Were” from Animal Joy and “Rooks” and “The Snow Leopard” from Rook as the exceptions. However, the band performed two David Bowie songs, “African Night Flight” and “Look Back in Anger” as an encore.

Shearwater_020316-2Animal Joy marked a period of transition for Shearwater, who lost several band members, including long-time member Thor Harris, a musician who contributed substantially to the group’s distinct sonic palette. But even when they aren’t at their best, Shearwater stands out against the homogeny of bands making music. On Jet Plane and Oxbow Shearwater hones its new voice; the band feels more self-assured and more unified than it has since the release of The Golden Archipelago. Nothing lasts forever, but even through highs and lows, Shearwater has remained a band creating rich and daring music.

All photos © Bryan C. Parker & Pop Press International; click any image to open set in slideshow viewer.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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