A review of Glass Hammer, DOUBLE LIVE (deluxe edition, Sound Resources, 2015).
2 CDs/1 DVD. Tracks: Nothing, Everything; So Close, So Far; Mythopoeia; Third Floor; The Knights of the North; If the Stars; and Time Marches On. The DVD consists of the 1.5 hours of the show at RosFest, May 3, 2015.
Glass Hammer: Steve Babb; Susie Bogdanowicz; Carl Groves; Aaron Raulston; Kamran Alan Shikoh; and Fred Schendel.
(Sound Resources, 2015)
For a band that specializes in writing studio masterpiece after studio masterpiece, it’s somewhat surprising to find that Glass Hammer has released six live albums (albums defined as CDs and/or DVDs): LIVE AND REVIVED; LEX LIVE; LIVE AT NEARFEST; LIVE AT BELMONT; LIVE AT THE TIVOLI; and, now, DOUBLE LIVE. Two live songs also appear on 2007’s COMPILATIONS. The band doesn’t even tour that much, but, when it does, it’s something mightily special.
Additionally, the band has over twenty years of material to choose from. Not surprisingly, three of the seven live tracks on DOUBLE LIVE come from the band’s last album, but the selections reach all the way back to 1995. “Nothing, Everything,” “Mythopoeia,” and “Third Floor” come from THE BREAKING OF THE WORLD (2015). “If the Stars” from IF (2010). “The Knight of the North” from INCONSOLABLE SECRET (2005). “So Close, So Far” from SHADOWLANDS (2004). And, “Time Marches On” from PERELANDRA (1995). I was a bit surprised by the last selection as it appears three other times on Glass Hammer releases. Still, of the four versions, this is by far the best.
Coming off what is arguably their best album to date, THE BREAKING OF THE WORLD, the six members on stage look as happy and as confident as can be. It’s an absolute joy to watch them perform on stage even though the camera work is a bit stiff compared to, say, the visually fluid LEX LIVE. Clearly, they love each other, their music, and their ability to perform their art together and for others. Joy simply exudes from the screen. Babb grooves, Schendel glides, Raulston pounds, and Shikoh soars. And, sheesh, are these guys tight. I could probably watch the interaction of bass, drums, guitar, and keys in “Time Marches On”—especially beginning at the the 1:23:34 mark. Holy Moses, these guys are amazing. All of them. I’d love to just tell each one of them individually—”you are doing what you were meant to do on this Earth!!!!”
Though I adamantly love the Glass Hammer albums fronted by Carl Groves and Susie Bogdanowicz (CULTURE OF ASCENT, ODE TO ECHO, and THE BREAKING OF THE WATER), I had no idea what kind of a frontman Groves would prove to be on a live stage. I had no worries about Bogdanowicz.
Susie the magnificent.
She possesses one of the two best voices in rock today, and I’ve said this and written this repeatedly. She’s also gorgeous (her all black outfit makes her look like a superhero), and it’s quite clear that she gives every aspect of her soul to this music. Unlike so many in the world of music, she also conveys all of this power on stage as a person and an artist with a clearly good and gentle soul. It’s a fascinating paradox.
Groves, though, clearly proves his mettle on this live album. He’s absolutely fun to watch. I wish I had better descriptives coming to my tired mind at the moment, but the word that keeps coming to me is “fun.” And, I mean this in the best sense. He’s playful and mischievous, but not at all self centered. He’s the front man, but he leads as one of equals not as the cock on parade.
While I noted above that this is one very tight band, I also have to say this: while the band celebrates its friendship and art, we, too, should be celebrating. It’s an honor, a privilege, and an inspiration to look at what Babb and Schendel have accomplished over the past two decades. I could never even count how many hours of sheer pleasure they’ve given me, how many times they’ve inspired me, and how often they’ve demonstrated that good and light can exist in a world of darkness and chaos.