When I first saw Samantha Crain perform a little over a year ago, the Oklahoma native was joined by the Midnight Shivers and her boot-clad feet were used mostly for dancing on stage. Tuesday night I saw her again, this time sans the Shivers, and the feet inside her adorable ankle boots did a whole heck of a lot more stomping than I remember from that first performance. The new tracks that Crain showcased off her upcoming album, You (Understood), were much more rock ‘n roll than the folksy songs that first gained the artist notoriety, and her songwriting style is clearly evolving into something that has me eagerly anticipating the June 8th release of her sophomore full-length.
Though the new songs were noticeably heavier and driven by an electric guitar rather than the acoustic that was at the core of previous efforts, Crain’s unmistakable vocals and penchant for lyrics that dabble in the dark side (If you recall, this is the girl who wrote a song about a child murderer on her first EP) kept the set from feeling discordant. The tone of these new tracks was established with set-opener “Equinox,” which featured heavy bass lines and high-hat crashes aplenty supporting the efforts of Crain on her sea-foam green electric, and the frenetic, double-tempo ending of another new track, “Holdin’ That Wheel,” was unlike anything I’ve heard from the artist before.
Plenty of songs from previous releases were mixed in with the new tracks, with my personal favorite off the Confiscation EP, “Traipsing Through the Aisles,” prompting a sing-along request from Crain (Not that she needed to ask. I would have sung along anyways.) The title track off her full-length debut, Songs in the Night, featured Crain on kazoo in an effort to replace the parts that were missing after the departure of her guitarist a few days before, but as she said herself, “This is basically the same thing,” and I don’t think anyone minded the absence.
Although Crain told the crowd near the end of her set, “If you guys don’t like these new ones, I can’t help it. I’m sick of playing all those old ones,” I don’t think she had to worry about anyone complaining about the abundance of new songs she performed. From the stunned silence of the crowd for a full two beats after the last notes of set closer, “Up On The Table,” rand through the cavernous Bootleg Theater, I think the new direction may be unexpected, but it’s certainly not unwelcomed. The raucous applause that followed the silence proved that.
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