March 10th 2014, The El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles CA: Chicago-based instrumental heavy rock trio Russian Circles have been going from strength to strength in recent years, and since the last time I saw them headline the Troubadour in December 2011, they’ve traveled quite a fair distance as a band, literally and figuratively. Their latest album ‘Memorial’ has gained widespread praise and as a consequence, they’ve been getting booked on plenty of tours both as headliners and opening act. Currently, they’re approaching the end of a headline US tour with support from Helms Alee and KEN Mode, and played at a Sold-Out El Rey Theater in Western Los Angeles last night.
This show was moving along rapidly, which was a true indication of the quality of the live music the audience was treated to so far. Not long after Helms Alee were done, headliners Russian Circles appeared on stage and went on to play a fantastic 80-minute set without speaking a single word for the entirety of it. Very seldom has a Los Angeles crowd been held captive by an all-instrumental band in this manner, as Russian Circles had everyone’s complete undivided attention even through the delicate moments of the set. They presented a selection of tunes ideal for a headline set, visiting each of the five albums in their short but much revered career.
The lighting on stage was minimal but very much deliberate. It was creatively executed, with all three members backlit and for the most part portrayed as silhouettes, shifting the focus on the music that much more. Guitarist Mike Sullivan and drummer Dave Turncrantz went about fulfilling their roles perfectly while Brian Cook efficiently juggled his bass, guitar, samples and pedal-board without missing a note. To cap off an incredible show with a fitting encore, they played the title track off of their latest album ‘Memorial’, with Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Chelsea Wolfe as guest vocalist, who also recorded the studio version of the song with the band. Following that, they closed the show with ‘Youngblood’ and said goodbye to a crowd that gave them a justifiably generous ovation.
Watch a video of Russian Circles performing ‘Memorial’ with Chelsea Wolfe at this show:
The smell of Marijuana engulfed the air, but even for those who weren’t smoking that good stuff, Russian Circles’ performance was nothing short of a hallucinogenic drug in itself. The Mexican hot dog stands outside the venue did excellent business for themselves, better than usual, as after the end of the show they were quickly flocked by those who did indulge.
Overall, it was a privilege to be a witness to the brilliance of these musicians, and when a venue of this size is packed to capacity for no reasons other than pure appreciation for good music such as that played by these bands, faith in humanity is momentarily restored.