The Arcs at Terminal 5 / Afterword
by David Burke, Contributing Writer, Foreword / Afterword, December 10, 2015
The Arcs cannot be stopped. Last night they played an exceptional thirteen-song set for a sold out Terminal 5 and suggested that what I may have errantly dubbed a Dan Auerbach side project may, in fact, be a full-force touring band. Judging by the wealth of material on display last night, I expect they’ll be exactly that, and I couldn’t be happier. The set, which lasted a bit under an hour and a half, was polished and in all ways excellent, and included some choice morsels that didn’t appear on the record, and omitted some choice morsels that did. Playing five non-record songs (one of which Auerbach claimed never to have played live before) and two covers, The Arcs seem to be in the midst of tremendous output, and, hopefully, planning to stick around for a while. Before a mostly tropical lime and flamingo scrim, on a stage covered with palm trees and instruments, The Arcs took their stand in NYC in support of their debut record, the funky and trippy soul masterpiece, Yours, Dreamily,.
The Arcs, five members plus the threesome of Mariachi Flor de Toloache were an impressive band in presence alone, nestled between palm fronds and washed in ambient soft warm hues thanks to some exceptional low impact semi-psychedelic light design. Opening with Stay In My Corner felt a bit in medias res to me, as if I’d arrived somewhere in the middle of the show, and the band had just taken it down a notch before launching into the high energy second half, which continued with a cover of Black Uhuru’s Sorry For the Man, before returning to Yours, Dreamily, for Pistol Made of Bones, Put a Flower in Your Pocket, The Arc, and Nature’s Child. The show was effortless. Auerbach was up to his usual theatrics, hands to his head, digging down deep to summon his soulful croon and otherwise taking his guitar to task. His tropical short sleeve button down, which received a warm greeting from some enthusiastic fans, complimented the pleasantly disorienting lights and the genre bending tunes that washed over us last night. The Arcs switched instruments as necessary and played on nimbly. Mariachi Flor de Toloache provided soulful vocal accompaniment in addition to the horns and strings that seem so essential to The Arcs sonic concept.
Fully expecting a predictable set list, The Arcs set me straight, straight away with Sorry For the Man, but it was the band’s cover of Gary U.S. Bonds’ I Wanna Holler (But The Town’s Too Small) that really grabbed me, as Auerbach set down the guitar and sang, just sang. Two covers I’d never heard became wonderful treats and accompanied the five non-record Arcs songs to round out the show. Young, which is available streaming on The Arcs website was the only new offering I’d heard. My Mind, another expressive guitar-driven beauty, showcased the tender end of Auerbach’s vocal inflection. The other three I can’t even track down, though the first encore song, in which Auerbach sings, “I don’t even know where we wanna go” shined through, a beautiful, soulful gem that seems to pair with Searching the Blue in tone and context.
Chains of Love and Put a Flower in Your Pocket, two Yours, Dreamily, offerings were particularly well received, as the audience sang back the choruses, but its was The Arcs final encore song, Velvet Ditch that stole the show. For the work Auerbach has done with The Black Keys, his solo work, his work as a producer, and now this, the song seems to be a bit of a confession. You see, the Ohio boy, who claims to be “forever stuck in Mississippi” has recorded 13 major records since 2002 with either The Black Keys, The Arcs, Blackroc, or solo, not to mention numerous other appearances and tidbits. He also boasts producer credits on some 29 records since 2006. And with such extensive reach and prolific output, it’s easy to see why Auerbach claims to be “a pilgrim and a stranger.” But “that don’t make no nevermind.”
The Arcs Terminal 5 show last night was for me, the show of the year. I left elated, feeling like I’d really seen something special. But I also left hopeful. What I expected would most likely be a one and only show going in, seemed more like the launch party for something we may well have around for years to come. I would be genuinely dismayed if we don’t hear more from The Arcs very soon.
Foreword / Afterword
December 10, 2015