Murder By Death have been my favorite band for many years now. I first saw them opening for Thursday in 2003. I had no idea who they were and was expecting a grindcore band or something based on the name alone. It was the single best band discovery at a show I’ve ever had. I’ve seen them almost every time they’ve come near me for the past fifteen plus years, which is a lot because they tour near constantly. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them but it’s something like 18 or 19 times at this point. So a review of their show from me is different than from someone who hasn’t seen them as much. Their setlists have evolved over time but never any drastic changes. I’m rarely surprised by a song they play but obviously still love the ones I’ve heard so many times.
Last night’s show at the Grey Eagle in Asheville was a typically great Murder By Death set. The night began with me eating the food at the Grey Eagle for the first time. It was fine, nothing exceptional but very convenient. Tim Barry was the opening act. I’d never actually listened to his solo material before but have a few songs on my computer from his old punk band Avail. He played a good set of songs solo on acoustic guitar, including the stand out song “Prosser’s Gabriel” about how Barry’s hometown of Richmond should have a monument to Garbriel Prosser, a slave that led a failed revolt instead of a bunch of confederate generals. Barry was very genuine and positive and I look forward to checking out more of his music in the future.
Murder By Death was up next. They opened with “Alas” which is also the opening song on their new album The Other Shore. That album is a concept album about someone traveling through space after a loved one as the apocalypse takes place on earth. Typically cheery Murder By Death fair.
(Quick story: One of favorite memories seeing MBD was in Nashville before their album Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon came out. Adam (MBD’s singer/guitarist) explained one of the new songs they were playing that no one had heard yet, “Hard World.” He said it was inspired by a true story of a girl who went missing. There had been extensive news coverage about a pretty blonde girl that went missing and the reports said that she was the second girl to go missing. The song was for the first girl, who nobody paid attention to when she went missing because she wasn’t as attractive. They played the song (which is great) and then after when everyone quieted down someone yelled out “What happened to the girl?” Adam blurted out without thinking about it, “Oh, she died, they found her dead.” The entire audience went “Awww” and was immediately bummed out and Adam just had to laugh at how badly he’d brought everyone down. I never saw him explain what that song was about again.)
So, as I said, I’ve seen MBD many times, I’m the guy there looking forward to the new material. We got a decent amount of songs from The Other Shore, “Last Night On Earth,” “I Have Arrived,” & “Bloom.” Only two from the previous album Big Dark Love, “It Will Never Die” & “Strange Eyes.” I don’t take notes or anything so I’m sure I’d leave something out if I tried to do a complete setlist but there were a lot of old favorites like “Foxglove,” “Fuego,” “Lost River,” “The Curse of Elkhart,” “Comin Home,” “Shiola,” “Ball and Chain,” & one of their absolute best old songs “Three Men Hanging.” Mandatory songs “Brother”and “Until Morale Improves the Beatings Will Continue” were there too of course. After their fake encore break they came back and said they were playing a song that was requested that they hadn’t played in a long time and didn’t know how well it would go. It turned out to be “Boy Decide” which was a little funny to me since that used to be a staple of their set and I’ve probably seen it live 10+ times. Then they ended with “I Came Around,” one of the best songs on Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon.
Some of the regular songs “’52 Ford” and “Spring Break 1899” went away for some of the new songs. It’s always interesting to me to see what stays and what goes. It was another great Murder By Death show, and if they come near you I highly, highly recommend checking them out. I think they are the most underrated band in the world.