Ex-Pedro the Lion/occasional Headphones frontman David Bazan brought his solo show to the Black Cat in DC Thursday, and it was a decidedly rockin' evening, as - unlike his last couple tours - this time, he plugged in. When headlining Black Cat last year, he was in the midst of his first set of solo dates supporting the Fewer Moving Parts EP, and armed only with an acoustic guitar, presenting stripped down, though surprisingly intact, versions of songs from his entire artistic catalogue. The time spent as a solo performer clearly did him good, with his voice stronger than ever and increasingly sophistocated approach to songwriting on display last night, playing electric guitar exclusively.
The usual depressing tunes of murder and adultery were showcased, but, looking svelte and clean-cut (by Bazan standards), not to mention decidedly sober, Bazan's standouts were new songs like possible faith/lack-of-faith allegory (aren't they all?), "Curse Your Branches," the strong-melodied "Heavy Breather," rocker "Weeds in the Wheat," and Johnny Cashesque "Please, Baby, Please," all of which continue the increasingly autobiographical tone of the EP and pick up where the twangy, complex structures of Pedro the Lion's final record, Achilles Hill, left off.
Bazan and his show, like the new songs, seem more focused than ever. Even when closing the set with the uber-covered "Hallelujah" (a move that seems more like a Bazan choice from ten years ago), he effectively answered the question, "Why would someone else try this song after hearing Jeff Buckley's version?" by sticking closer to Leonard Cohen's original, and somehow managed to still make it sound like a revelation.
David Bazan's first solo LP, Black Cloud, should arrive in the spring on his new label, Barsuk.