Secret Machines: Avalon, Boston MA 10.4.06

The Secret Machines effectively took the spectacle of arena-rock and scaled it down for the size of a club, as their “In The Round” tour blasted through Boston’s Avalon Ballroom. The performance raced across the full spectrum of visual and auditory senses in a way that would give any cynicism-prone critic a run for their money.

 After years of refining their live dynamic, the Machines took their mood-conscious performance on the road, “in the round.”  It’s a phrase originally used to describe Shakespearian performance, but TSM are in the process of completely re-defining that.  The group’s new live incarnation brings each member of the trio to their own raised platform, facing each other, placing a monstrous lighting rig in the space that falls in between. As if this wasn’t enough, the stage-schematic then utilizes 20 foot-tall scaffolding that surrounds the band with enough lighting to cause a mild epileptic seizure.

Starting the night off with “What Used to Be French,” a track off 2002’s September 000 EP, it became instantly clear this would be far from an ordinary night.  Dipping into the early sketches in their catalog, songs they rarely touch, they let folks know early on that tonight, things were going to be different.  An extended “Sad and Lonely” incorporated a drawn out intro that gave drummer Josh Garza an opportunity to shine. The sonic landscapes created by the guitar and bass/keys section of brothers Ben and Brandon Curtis complimented his pounding beats – a perfect chance to show his masterful ability to use silence as the counterpoint to the atomic pulse he is known for unleashing.  A powerful take of “I Hate Pretending” (off this year’s Ten Silver Drops) featured more Garza magic, with a drum solo that seemed as though it was performed with hammers rather than drum sticks.

A radio-friendly encore offering fans a chance to hear the newest single, “Lighting Blue Eyes,” was surprisingly highlighted with a follow-up tearing rendition of “First Wave Intact.”  Wrapping the tune in a single note, it soared within the beating drums, pounding keys, and the mad guitarist stomping his foot to create a ferocity they were all locked into.

Seeing the transformation this group is bringing to nightclubs across the country, the question of what they would do with the budget of an arena tour is bound to be coming into question more and more frequently. Not only was the group’s set pulled off “outside the box,” but it seems as though the Secret Machines are gradually redefining what part of the box is considered “in.”

Photos by Scott Fleishman

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