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Review Fri Dec 14 2012
The first time I saw the Faint they were touring on Danse Macabre. They played to maybe a hundred people in a cafeteria at Carnegie Mellon University. Nearly 11 years later they're selling out Metro and playing Danse Macabre in full. Even though playing an album in its entirety live is a popular move for bands who've been around a while, nobody seems to do it the same way. They've been done sequentially, non-sequentially, true to the album arrangements, tinkered with enough to question recognition, as the entirety of a set, as a portion of the set, etc. It might be fair to say the novelty is wearing off, but it doesn't mean good full album performances are losing much luster. On Wednesday, the Faint started like they would any other show. After warming up with a few old songs (highlighted by "Desperate Guys") and giving the crowd a taste of what was to come of their electro-infused new wave/punk, they launched into Danse Macabre. It's the middle of their concept albums (complementing 1999's sex-obsessed Blank-Wave Arcade and 2004's self-explanatory Wet From Birth) and, arguably, their best.
"Agenda Suicide" and certainly "Glass Danse" got the ball rolling right away with faithful renditions amped up just a bit. It was sort of like a switch had been flipped when Danse Macabre began. The video screens were turned on. Singer Todd Fink hit a higher gear. The crowd was more rambunctious. Dancing (or, at least movement) was practically universal. Singalongs were prevalent, and mortality-themed lyrics never sounded so good as when sung by a thousand people in unison. As with many albums, though, it's front-loaded to capture a listener. And, of course, the dynamics of listening to an album at home and in a crowd at a show are very different. After the initial euphoria and straight-up bangers (e.g., "Let the Poison Spill From Your Throat"), the set was bound to hit a weak spot, right? When Fink mentioned that they'd never played "Violent" live before this tour, it didn't exactly come across as a vote of confidence. But over the last month of playing it every night, it sounded right at home and the band never lost a step.
By the time they got to back-half standout "The Conductor", there'd barely been a moment to relax. And that crunchy new wave jam didn't slow anyone down. Then again, the entire album's only 35 minutes long. It shouldn't be difficult to hold attention when backed by a dazzling light display, as well. After the inevitable lull through the low-key "Ballad of a Paralysed Citizen", the Faint bounded back with another mini-set of tunes from across their history - from "The Geeks Were Right" to their cover of Sonic Youth's "Mote" to the chaotically sleazy "Worked Up So Sexual." An encore of "Evil Voices", "I Disappear" and the raging "Paranoiattack" closed out the night with pandemonium, sweat and frenzy.