…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – 3rd February 2019 – Newcastle Riverside
Feature by Graeme J. Baty
It’s been a long time since the Trail of Dead played Newcastle, and in all honesty I didn’t think they’d ever come back! Their last show at Newcastle Academy was poorly attended. Credit to the band that didn’t deter them, I recall it being one of the highlights of my gig calendar. Eight years later I’m over the moon that they are back in Newcastle, this time they are celebrating 20 years of their classic Madonna.
They have Spoilers opening for them on the tour. With a set of varied songs that don’t quite fit the Trail of Dead sound but hell I didn’t care these were quite a pleasant surprise. In tune with their name, they save the best song till last, no spoilers! The last song in the set (Jam in A according to the setlist) propelled them to another level. They were on super early as fans were just arriving but they seemed to win the subdued Sunday night crowd over. We’ll have a full photo gallery from their set coming soon.
Twenty years ago I was learning the guitar and obsessively bingeing on American alternative music. Lots of Pavement, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill etc. I think, I first heard Trail of Dead on the John Peel show. I went out and I picked up copies of the first two albums and I was hooked from the start. Madonna was one of those records that spellbound me, the alternative tunings, tremolo guitar picking and dramatic song structures appealed greatly. Now in 2019 on my guitar god dreams have faded but the riffs are firmly embedded in my brain. Tonight is much more than just a stroll down memory lane, it’s a chance to see one of the most powerful live bands around.
One thing that never really occurred to me until now (particularly seeing them live) is that Trail of Dead are actually a drummer band! I have this revelation as I find myself fixated on the drummers, the percussion on their albums is simply phenomenal. Perfect Teenhood is pure driven rock drumming masterclass. After all, they say a band is only as good as their drummer. The current lineup features two highly skilled drummers. Kit set up in centre stage for the band members to swap drums for guitars in-between songs. I love this, I hate it when drummers are hidden away out of sight. Get them up front and centre stage, it looks and (more importantly) sounds amazing!
The setlist is exactly as you’d expect it, tracks in order with the intermissions played over the PA. Madonna (like their debut) doesn’t pause between songs, the only silence is at the end of Side A. It’s an immersive sound experience from start to finish.
Blight Takes All shows Jason Reece is a powerhouse frontman as well as a drummer. That’s one of the charms of ToD, they swap instruments and have two very distinct characterful vocalists.
Mark David Chapman erupts, proving to be a highlight of the set and an all-time favourite of mine. The crowd are getting really into it now as Autry Fulbright II stalks the stage looking cool as fuck!
All the band members disappear for the encore break. Leaving Conrad Keely to begin the opening of Sigh Your Children as a solo piece. The band dramatically re-enters the stage for the crescendo to Madonna. In a blink of an eye, the album is done. Holy shit. What an album!
The encore treats us to a handful of songs from their uber-popular 3rd album Source Tags and Codes. Ending the night on the classic Will You Smile For Me from their underrated 4th album the post 9/11 prog rock masterpiece; World Apart. The encore gives a nice summation of the bands successful period and confirms their place (in my mind) as one of the greatest bands of the 2000s. For me the first two albums are my favourites and Madonna remains as one of my favourite albums of all time. It’s nice for bands to do this, it really is an album that deserves attention and it was a thrill to hear it live.
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