Even though Tuesday night marked the start of their 37-date U.S. tour and the release of new album History From Below, Delta Spirit took the stage at San Diego's jam-packed Belly Up without saying a word and immediately got down to business.
By the time the band ended sing-along opener "People Get Ready" with a crashing wave of feedback, the sold-out crowd knew they meant it.
And by the mid-set high point of "People C'Mon" and "White Table," the band was proving that this night was more than a warm-up for better shows somewhere on down the tour line.
Throughout the set, singer-guitarist Matt Vasquez bounced back and forth between a gravelly croon and wildcat yowl, while also keeping things interesting between songs. After the twisted gospel of "Ransom Man," for instance, he suddenly threw his guitar around the stage like John McEnroe losing a contested point.
Later, he asked the entire club to tell his grandma, who was there but too short for him to see from the stage, that they loved her. "Come on everybody," Vasquez rallied. "Help me out. On the count of three, I want everybody to say "I love you Irene! She worked at Fender in '52. She's cool."
Even later in the set, in the name of fairness, Vasquez dedicated History's "Vivian" to another grandma, who he said was now "on the other side."
Augustana's Johnny Vincent joined the band for a handful of songs, mostly spelling Kelly Winrich on keys so the multi-instrumentalist could move to a second set of drums and assist Brandon Young's already relentless beats.
The blistering showcase came to an end with a lively version of crowd pleaser "Trashcan."
Although the band was planning to start their two-song encore with new album gem "Scarecrow," they ended up swapping it for their take on blues classic "John Henry," a wild and loose cross between Leadbelly's version and Black Sabbath's, featuring Vasquez belting out the lyrics on a fuzzbox.
The 75-minute set closed early Wednesday morning with "Gimme Some Motivation" from the group's debut EP. And even though the hometown crowd was denied in their loud lobbying for more music, it was apparent as they filtered out that the Spirit had indeed moved them.
1. People Turn Around
2. Bushwick Blues
3. Strange Vine
5. Salt In The Wound
6. People C'Mon
7. White Table
8. Ransom Man
9. Golden State
10. St. Francis
14. John Henry
15. Gimme Some Motivation