Over a decade ago, on Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence, Glassjaw earned the adoration of disaffected youth by tempering the machismo of Long Island's hardcore scene with introspection and melancholy, courtesy of lyricist/vocalist Daryl Palumbo. And while the band's output and touring have remained sporadic since the early '00s, their legacy remains a cherished one, making their first tour in four years something worth watching.
Added to the allure: the arrival of a new EP, Coloring Book, given away as a freebie at shows and packed with six new tunes, a sneak preview of what will become Glassjaw's third studio album, their first since 2002's Worship and Tribute.
As such, the Philadelphia kickoff to a string of headlining American shows was not a reunion as much as a return to eminence. With a lineup featuring Palumbo, guitarist Justin Beck, bassist Manuel Carrero, and drummer Durijah Lang, the band is moving beyond the perpetual break-up rumors that swirled, fueled by years of inactivity, sporadic touring, and the success of Palumbo's side project, Head Automatica.
The band's enduring endearment was affirmed by a sold out, seething pit that not only sang along with every lyric of "Tip Your Bartender," "Mu Empire" and tracks from the recently-released Our Color Green singles collection, but collectively swayed to every lurch and rhythmic side-step the band took.
An unorthodox stage setup saw guitarist Beck and Carrero blocked in behind a line of monitors that flanked Lang at the back of the Trocadero stage, each with limited amounts of stage space, and backed by bright, LED video screens which pixilated their silhouettes. Palumbo, meanwhile, was the only member of the band with the ability to roam. The visual of him dominating half the stage while fronting a backline of inert musicians gave the impression that he's really Glassjaw's sole visionary; he literally stood alone.
One of the reasons for Glassjaw's touring reclusiveness is Palumbo's well-chronicled fight with Crohn's disease.In spite of doctor's orders, he proffered more than enough energetic charisma but he was smart about his showmanship, saving his dynamism for the moments when the audience was most likely to reciprocate.
After a long set culled mostly from Worship and Tribute and assorted singles and b-sides (only one track from their debut album, "Siberian Kiss," made the cut), Philly was treated to the unveiling of the Coloring Book EP. The half-dozen tracks, performed in the same order as on the CD, found Glassjaw going even further into Mars Volta-styled ethno-progressiveness.
While the new tunes debuted, the crowd's reaction shifted from unbridled excitement to slack-jawed attentiveness, and they were more than a little bewildered when the band played the keyboard-heavy, jazz-shuffle of "Daytona White" before promptly leaving, sans encore.
Ending a concert with an unknown down-tempo song breaks from rock'n'roll tradition, but nobody ever accused Glassjaw of being conventional.No reason to start now.
(You Think You're) John Fucking Lennon
Tip Your Bartender
Ape Dos Mil
The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports
Natural Born Farmer
All Good Junkies Go to Heaven
Two Tabs of Mescaline
Vanilla Poltergeist Snake
Miracles in Inches
Stations of the New Cross