Two years to the day since The Airborne Toxic Event introduced Such Hot Blood at Red Rocks, the group added another chapter to their growing legend when they played the album through in its entirety on the final night of their Fillmore San Francisco residency. And as special as that was, it was merely the tip of the iceberg on this occasion, a communal celebration of the bond between a band and its fans.
Throughout last year’s Such Hot Blood Tour, we
bitched about wondered why the newest album was not being played more extensively. And though that question has never really been answered, Night Three at The Fillmore proved beyond doubt that this underrated masterpiece is worthy of more live attention. Simply put, Such Hot Blood is a monster of an album, and the Fillmore fans greedily ate it up.
The stage was set for a special night when Mikel Jollett backed up his contention that he never should’ve allowed himself to be talked into slashing a minute from opening track “The Secret.” The band delighted those in attendance by playing the original longer version for the first time since the album’s release. “So you drink to forget, or you drink to remember…” lamented the singer, reviving one of TATE’s great lost lyrics.
“Timeless” found the crowd in unrestrained sing-along mode, before “What’s in a Name?” established itself as a stadium-sized rocker. Later, as guitarist Steven Chen greeted fans after the show, he mentioned that he’d like to play this one more frequently as this tour progresses, so keep an eye out for it in a city near you.
The momentum continued with a very strong rendition of “The Storm,” as the singer attacked the closing lines with all the power he could muster. “Safe” followed, receiving its second airing of the residency, sweeping the crowd away in its peerless interplay between Mikel and Anna Bulbrook’s guitar, viola and voices. Fan favorite “Bride and Groom” was next, as the combined volume of every fan in the building singing along threatened to drown out the vocalist entirely.
With “True Love” looming, a mandolin was slipped surreptitiously onstage. The question hung in the air like a half-filled balloon: who would pick up the instrument?
Steven Chen, ladies and gentlemen.
The guitarist traded his usual tool for the much smaller weapon, which he used to create a great big moment when he nailed the mandolin solo like he’s been doing it forever. (He later admitted that it’s only been six weeks.)
Over the next twenty minutes, the crowd would be utterly captivated by a quartet of rarities that are begging not to be so rare in the future. First up, “This Is London,” featuring Anna’s gorgeous viola sandwiched between Mikel’s equally lovely lyrics.
Next came the showstopper. “The Fifth Day” was everything fans were hoping for and then some, compelling the hairs on the back of my neck to stand straight up at attention, just as they did at Red Rocks. I don’t know how they did it, but the band replicated the huge orchestral sound at the end of the song with only five players on stage. Anna’s whistles leading into the climactic symphony were spot on, as were the high harmonies to end the song. Chills. (Steven spoke about this song after the show as well, hinting that it would be a shame to put in all the work to get it ready and then only play it once on tour…)
“Elizabeth” had a rough start, as Mikel found himself distracted by an electric fan blowing in his face and called for a restart. The second attempt was flawless, with the crowd again joining in on each precious word.
Though the B-side “Dublin” was passed over, the Such Hot Blood portion of the evening wasn’t quite finished yet: not before the long-awaited and much-requested world premiere of “The Way Home.” This European bonus track has become the theme song of the past eight years of my life, and occupied the top spot on my own Fillmore wishlist, so it will come as no surprise to hear that this was one of the highlights of the residency for me. And though Mikel humbly predicted that he would screw it up, the song was executed without a hitch.
The remainder of the main set was just one sample of rock ecstasy after another: “Wishing Well,” “Dope Machines,” “All I Ever Wanted,” “Wrong,” “Sometime Around Midnight,” and finally a second San Francisco helping of “Innocence.” “Dope Machines,” off the upcoming album, was played for the first time since Lollapalooza, and it seems the band has landed on the ideal arrangement. After Mikel struggled with the falsetto on previous performances, those portions were now presented as a harmony between Mikel and Anna, achieving the same high pitch that they were seeking, but now with a solid foundation running underneath. It was perfect, and combined with another impeccable rendering of “Wrong,” excitement for the new album is quickly becoming feverish.
I can’t even express how welcome it is to see “Innocence” back in the rotation. That song takes every show into the next dimension, and this one was certainly no exception. A highlight was seeing Adrian Rodriguez wielding the bow on bass with greater authority than was the case on Thursday.
The first of two encores was a stripped down Mikel-and-Anna show, beginning with a lovely “Duet” (whose inclusion in the set made up for it being passed over on Friday), and culminating with “The Graveyard Near the House,” performed for the third consecutive evening. This one functioned as a sequel to Friday’s incident in which Mikel chided Anna for repeating the “You have no idea about me” line one verse too early. This time, it was Mikel who made that same mistake, allowing Anna to give it right back to him as they sang, “Did you memorize your lines, ’cause I did.”
The second encore brought an enthusiastic and rocking end to both the show and the residency, with four hits that had audience members pouring out every last ounce of energy, not wanting to leave anything in the tank: “Gasoline,” “Changing,” “Hell and Back” and “All At Once.” The band slowed down only long enough for Mikel to express their profound gratitude for the fans who make their dream possible. That gratitude was more than mutual, as more than one fan could be overheard despairing, “This can’t be over!” as the opening notes of “All At Once” rang out.
All told, Such Hot Blood night featured 23 songs in a 1-hour, 58-minute set. Astoundingly, there were actually 25 on the setlist, but “Numb” and “Papillon” were dropped, perhaps because the gig was inching past midnight as it wound down. 13 of the 23 songs were unique to Night Three.
There is so much more to say as we wrap up the residency that it’s going to take another blog post to say it. We’ll be back with that later this week. For now, This Is Nowhere is signing off from The Fillmore… the best three days of music we have ever experienced.
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.