There are studio bands that also happen to tour and there are live bands that also put out records; anybody who’s seen Los Angeles natives letlive. live would be hard-pressed to argue that they don’t constitute the latter group.
When the boys in letlive. hit The Lost Horizon in Syracuse, NY on March 27, they were clearly out to prove once again why they’ve been named among the best live bands countless times, by multiple sources.
As the house lights went down inside of the club the band casually took to the stage, as if savoring the last seconds of calm before the inevitable maelstrom that followed. Frontman extraordinaire Jason Aalon Butler, back to the audience, sporting a home-made denim vest with the words “Fuck love, make history” and a white heart with two red Xs over each ventricle on the back, bounced back and forth across the stage in preparation for what was seconds away.
Slowly the feedback from guitarists Jean Nascimento and Jeff Sahyoun’s amps grew and then . . . eruption. Butler turned around to not just face the audience, but assault them with the type of vocal battery only he is capable of, screaming the lyrics “There are no martyrs in resolution / Remain still don’t expect restitution / Stand up, stand up, stand up!” while running back and forth across every inch of the stage during their opening song, “Le Prologue.”
As on 2010’s Fake History, the band transitioned directly into “The Sick, Sick 6.8 Billion” and Butler continued his rampage, creating a stage presence that can only be described as an exorcism of every demon that has ever haunted him. He makes it clear that he has no qualms about shouting his barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world, sharing the
song of himself with us (See American Poet Laureate: Walt Whitman), as if bearing his very soul to us, for our sake. Mid-song, Butler broke the barrier between artist and audience, grabbing the steel I-Beam above the stage and catapulting himself from the stage into the throngs of people beneath him, as if to say: “I am one of you, let us celebrate this unity.” Upon returning to the stage, he then grabbed what appeared to be a hollow speaker cabinet and flung it onto the stage, creating just another obstacle to grapple with during his unrelenting chaos.
The band then ran through standards off of Fake History, including “H. Ledger,” “Enemies/Enemigos,” and “Homeless Jazz” before coming to one of the high points of their set. Denoted on their handwritten set-list simply as “27,” letlive. debuted a new song (full name is “27 Club”) off of their forthcoming and still unnamed album set to be released this summer. With a release of the stature of Fake History, a worthy follow-up is certainly not easy, but if this song is any indication of the new record, then fans will be even hungrier for more come summertime. Notable in the song was a classic “Jason Moment” in which Butler acted out a dialogue between somebody else and himself, saying “I hear what they’re saying, I hear what they’re saying. If you want to be a martyr, then be a fucking martyr. Take some initiative, Jason. To be a martyr means you’ve got to die, if you want to be a martyr then fucking die!”
Following up this new and unfamiliar song, the band graced the crowd with fan favorite “Muther” and those in attendance immediately relished the chance to once again sing along to words that they knew by heart. The song followed its smooth and jazzy crescendo before breaking into its ecstatic peak. But of course, with this peak came the much-anticipated antithesis in Butler’s soft, desperate and almost haunting repetition of the line “Don’t you cry, Momma, we’ll be okay” that slowly evolved into an angry, vehement, and rebellious scream, paralleled by the band’s compelling climax.
Next the band played perennial bangers “We, the Pros of Con” and “Day 54” before Butler announced that they’d be playing two more songs and then adjourning for the night. The first of these two songs was “Renegade ‘86” featuring Butler’s distinct vocal range, in which he goes from the most callous screams to the most supple clean vocals, reminding the audience that “Here in the sun there’s only fifteen minutes of fun.”
Finally, the band closed with what has to be the heaviest, most overtly livid, and overall most passionate song on their latest album, “Casino Columbus.” Once the song kicked in the crowd immediately launched into a frenzied slew of moshing and stage diving, but the pinnacle of pandemonium hit when Butler unleashed forth the line “I want to be / the bourgeoisie, but I don’t have blue blood in my veins!” from his vocal folds. During this moment a wave of people climbed and subsequently dove off of the stage, illuminating exactly what letlive. is: catharsis in the midst of utter insanity.