Framed against a backdrop of heavy steel duct work and red brick and mortar that recalled their late, great hometown club the Flying Buffalo, the Athens, Ga. trio Vigilantes of Love seemed eerily at home at the New York date of a monthlong tour.
Frontman Bill Mallonee opened the show with a pair of solo acoustic numbers: “Parting Shot”, from 1995′s Blister Soul, and an old “new” song, “Judas Skin”, which both challenged the audience to pay attention and invited them into the Vigilantes’ brand of folk-based rock ‘n’ roll. Bassist Chris Bland and drummer Tom Crea then joined Mallonee onstage, and the full lineup blistered through eight more fire-and-brimstone testimonials that shook the ground and peeled the paint off the walls.
The set consisted primarily of newer material from their upcoming album, including the throwback slice of Americana “Version of the Truth”, the speak-song verse-call of “Reasonable Facsimile”, and the frenetic guitar rumble of “Black Crow in My Living Room”, a song Bland said was inspired by “many days on the road in a cramped van and visions of red clay, wet leaves, and kudzu.”
The band, which has spent the last 18 months touring relentlessly and in and out of the studio (the new record, to be released in March, is already in the can), seemed confident, tight and focused. From Crea’s staccato drums on “Locust Ears” to Bland’s lush harmonies and bass groove on “Takin’ on Water”, the Vigilantes played like a veteran ball team, each member aware of where the other was going. Such rapport was most obvious on the band’s raucous, uptempo reading of “Blister Soul”, which out-rocked the album version, a feat all the more impressive considering it took five musicians to create the sound of the recorded take.