In the closing days of the Spectre at the Feast stateside tour, I was rapt as Robert Levon Been, Peter Hayes and 2008 addition Leah Shapiro dished out the soundtrack for a journey down a dark and thinning trail somewhere in a strange and haunted America.
From the keening and dissonant build on “Red Eyes and Tears” that came from somewhere south of despair to Hayes and Been’s venomous slide guitar work on “Ain’t No Easy Way” to the rattlesnake tambourine on “Love Burns,” this trio has the power and chops to bring us to unholy ecstasy.
Been and Hayes rip into their bass and guitar work, summoning something that stirs just under the skin. And the enigmatic Shapiro’s tight drum work truly did seem to “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” as if, with relentless precision, she was calling home a monstrous army.
Given the strength of their musicianship and strong ear for mood and tone, I tried hard to ignore the vocal slurry that kept thinning as the show progressed. And while blurred voices occasionally serviced the mood on tunes such as “Returning,” my inability to decode the mumbling resulted in concomitant dulling of its poignancy. Perhaps “The Toll” was simply an admission of tour exhaustion. ★★★☆☆