Live at the Fillmore
Great live shows are usually remembered for one of two things: the band’s energy and interaction, or their sheer musical prowess. I’ve seen precious few live bands that I can truly say delivered both equally; one almost always overshadows the other. In Dredg’s case, it’s undoubtedly the latter.
Dredg’s particular brand of prog rock has always relied heavily on mood and studio atmospherics. Their 2002 effort El Cielo, in particular, is so full of studio tricks that it would seem almost impossible to pull off live. And yet, performing at the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco, the band manages to silence any doubts I might have had almost immediately.
Starting off with two of their better known, most powerful songs from 2005’s Catch Without Arms, they immediately set a high bar for themselves. Musically they’re at the top of their game here, with guitarist Mark Engles playing like a man possessed while vocalist Gavin Hayes’ disembodied voice washes over everything in its usual haunting way.
After a grand take on “Ode To The Sun,” the band moves through the first few tracks of El Cielo in succession, somehow almost perfectly re-rendering even the most complicated, effect-laden studio tracks with an ease that seems other-wordly. A later highlight from the same album is the chorus of “Whoa Is Me,” featuring the inclusion of a live saxophonist. The band re-arranges these songs ever so subtly, and although they’re slightly different from their studio counterparts, they are in no way lacking. The few compromises that have been made don’t impede the performance or water down their vision in any way.
It’s a moving performance throughout, dripping with a complex, grandiose aloofness that I honestly thought would be impossible to reproduce outside of the studio. Live at the Fillmore will please both longtime fans as well as new listeners with a carefully selected setlist designed to showcase the band’s range and strengths. If you’re a fan of Mogwai, Sigur Ros, or even of Muse and A Perfect Circle, check this out. If you’re already a fan, this is one performance album that seems to be more than just a marketing afterthought. Just don’t expect to hear much in the way of witty banter or theatrics, as this one’s all about the music.