Stockholm Syndrome, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA- 7/11
Much has been said about this project spawned from a collaboration between Jerry Joseph and Dave Schools, and rightly so. The time is certainly right for Joseph's songwriting to get the larger exposure that it deserves, and, armed with a group of hot-shit players, things seem to be going very well for Stockholm Syndrome.
This performance at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston was a loud, intense slab of rock and roll dished out to a decent sized, but not capacity (it was a Sunday), crowd of enthusiastic fans. The band matched the crowd's energy and seemed genuinely invigorated and appreciative of the noise coming form the room. Even during the few slower, acoustic-based numbers ("White Dirt", "Any Other Day") there was a tangible excitability from the crowd as it was evident that the new material was being received well.
Drawing mostly from their debut effort, Holy Happy Hour, the band launched into the first set with a sharpness and aplomb that belied their short time as a group. "Tight" began with Joseph and lead guitarist Eric McFadden (P-Funk) trading some bluesy, Richards/Woods-like riffs before Schools, drummer Wally Ingrahm, and keyboardist Danny Dzuik joined in and there was simply no looking back from there on. "Counter-Clock World" is a Schools-driven rocker with a touch of funk and some excellent space-ray sounds from Dzuik during the chorus. The pace was set, and ears were ringing.
"Kind of Place", an up beat, "this feels like home" number followed and concluded the fast paced, 1-2-3 opener. After this Joseph picked up his acoustic guitar for two numbers, "White Dirt" and "Any Other Day". The order of the night may have indeed been bombastic, in-your-face rock, but these songs proved that this band works just as well with the volume dialed in to 6 as it does 11. "Oil", co-written by Joseph and Dzuik during some Berlin sessions a few years back, translated well and has turned into quite a rocker with this lineup although perhaps a slightly more subtle reading would have exposed the truer nature of this melancholy tune ("I patiently await my turn/ To return to oil"...).
Joseph's darker-underbelly-of-the-stars-and-stripes song "American Fork" closed the set with a vigorous attack by the band. I saw more than one fan with their fingers in their ears, but it's important to note that this action was accompanied by large smiles and bobbing heads. In considering the frankly political nature of this and a few other songs (including the relentless "Empire One", which opened the second set), one couldn't help but think of the problem faced by Rage Against the Machine in their heyday: Is the message being received? With riffs as good as these is anyone catching the no-holds-barred lyrics about "hillbilly heroin and the Patriot Act"? Does it matter? We'd have to ask Zach de la Rocha, but I also think that no one is completely blind to the fact that Mr. Jerry Joseph does, ahem, "lean to the left".
Following the excellent "Empire One" the band stayed true to something I noticed during their debut U.S. show in New York this past May: Even in comparison to a considerable first set, set two will be unbelievably strong. From "Empire One", through a funky, ass-shaking cover of the Climax Blues Band's "Couldn't Get it Right" (an obvious single) the band moved on to one of the true highlights of this great night of music: Little Women's "Lick the Tears". For a song that Joseph has been performing for decades, "Lick the Tears" was unbelievably fresh, its extended reggae-stylings moving the crowd to some of its louder cheers of the evening. One can only wonder what other classics from the Jerry Joseph catalogue that this band will take out and polish into their own, but the possibilities seem endless.
Next was "Friendly Fire", a relatively new number for the band that recently surfaced on Joseph's outstanding solo-acoustic album "Cherry", and the reading was energetic and again, loud as hell. "Bouncing Very Well" off of "Holy Happy Hour" was followed by Stockholm Syndrome's first-ever performance of the Joseph tune "Three Mile Island", which Jerry remarked had been first shown to the band earlier that day. It didn't show this one was absolutely nailed and the loud/soft dynamic came across almost perfectly. "Crime and Punishment" ended the set with an all-out rock stomp (think "London Calling"), McFadden and Joseph's crunching guitars being ably backed by the rest of the band.
McFadden's work throughout the night was solid to say the least. He's an extremely capable rock guitarist and his lighter touches (mandolin on "White Dirt", as well as a few others) were tasteful and welcome. The chemistry between the two guitarists is coming along very well, although at times one wished that Joseph, who generally deferred to McFadden for the lead, would be turned up at least enough to match his counterpart's ear-splitting volume.
The rolling, beautiful "Light is Like Water" served as the band's first encore. The song, which had a bit of the Joseph tune "Henry" sandwiched in the middle (along with what seemed to be a shout-out to the Red Sox) has become somewhat of a Joseph anthem, and deservedly so. "Light" is country-tinged rock poetry of the first order, and it's some of Jerry's strongest and most moving work. For those that don't know his songs this is a great place to start, and Stockholm Syndrome does it great justice.
The band left the stage, and it seemed that that would be it. But alas the crowd wouldn't disperse, and the yells must have moved the band as there they were, re-emerging on the stage with smiles and thanks for "coming out to see a new band on a Sunday". An extended version of the dark "Holy Happy Hour" rocker "Shining Path" was the reward, power chords abounding and Joseph putting everything he had into the vocals. The band put it all out there, and the result was one of the more rewarding rock experiences that this concertgoer has seen in quite a while.
Stockholm Syndrome is very much its own entity. Forget, for a moment, Widespread Panic, the Jackmormons, and anything else that comes to mind when you see their individual names on paper. This is an evolving group of top-rate musicians still learning, joyously, to work together.