Review: Luna delightfully dueling in San Francisco

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Luna in San Francisco (photo: Frank Silvestry)
Luna in San Francisco (photo: Frank Silvestry)

What impressed me most, both before and after the shows, was how much all of the members of Luna were into this event, realizing how special it was, not so much to relive or recapture the past, but to move these albums into the present, with the wisdom and pleasure that only time and distance can bring to something, infusing the albums with a greater sense of purpose.

Anyone who's managed to see Luna live have already heard a Penthouse show, or at least heard most of the album, so the real treats were hearing Bewitched and Rendezvous, with nearly a third of the songs never having been played live before. Of course it's easy to fall into the construct that this is a Dean Wareham band, yet seeing Luna live, especially playing these albums, it's quite impossible not to realize what everyone brings to the table, and how lacking this material would be had it not been of each member and their visions for the songs.

Lee on his no-nonsense kit
Lee on his no-nonsense kit

Most evident when hearing Luna live is the ridiculously brilliant job Lee Wall does on drums, sitting there behind a small no-nonsense kit that fits him like a glove, carrying the band forward and holding them in check while enhancing their style when they stretch out … truly a under appreciated chair in most bands. Then there's Sean, whose fiery guitar along with his songs Broken Chair, and Still at Home [my personal atmospheric "Free Bird"] garnished astounding applause with his flawless playing and stage presentation.

At times Sean and Dean seemed to be delightfully dueling, feeding each other lines, and having those lines answered with a sense of complexity and passion. And then there was the ever present sonic perfectionist Britta Phillips who's bass laced and complemented each note the others played with a warm solid bottom, along with a fundamental rhythm; all while dancing on the tips of her toes. And of course there was Dean, with his vocals carrying more weight than he did years ago, yet this new voice weaves in and out of his lyrics with precision and grace, breathing life and a sense of importance into these tracks.

Of course there where three major surprises … the first being the trumpet playing of Kelly Kyle on the number Bewitched, creating a very haunting and unexpected bewitching atmosphere that added a smoky layer. Then there was the liquid light-show, the likes I've not seen since the heady nights of the psychedelic 60's, morphing into and around the music, immersing Luna into a pastel wash of colour and form that took everyone's breath away. And finally there were the multiple encores, especially the final song of the three nights, 23 Minutes in Brussels, where Luna pulled out all of the stops, playing like this was the last time they were ever gonna have a good set of strings on their guitars, and simply brought the house to its knees.

The Chapel is one of the finest venues you'll ever find when it comes to live intimate shows, holding a mere 500, which includes the floor and balcony, and boasting a super sound system that leaves nothing to be desired.

Kelly Kyle trumpet solo on Bewitched
Luna (photo: Bill Van Der Ende
Luna (photo: Bill Van Der Ende

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