On Friday January 29th at Al’s Bar in Lexington, James Friley, better known by the stage name Idiot Glee, packed the house out for the release of his self-titled fifth LP.
I love when a band produces an album that is a show. By this I mean that the first song is a perfect opener, the last song is the perfect closer, and the middle tracks take you on the artist’s journey from album start to finish. Idiot Glee’s performance succeeded in this, beginning with a hypnotizing “Deep Warm Something” and ending on the piano ballad “The River,” the first and last tracks off the new album, respectively. The band also threw in new and old favorites from previous releases throughout the set, resulting in an excellent hometown show for the Lexington artist. Here’s how it all went down!
An Idiot Glee show usually consists solely of Friley and his synthesizer. However, for this album and tour he has some added assistance to help bring the album to life. Taking the stage with a full band consisting of a bassist, drummer with a bare bones kit, and Friley on vocals and keys, the group wasted no time jumping right into new material off Idiot Glee.
Drenched in blue and pink stage lights, the band began with “Deep Warm Something,” the first track off Idiot Glee. The dark, synthesizer-led intro slowly ramps up to reveal a sound that is more traditional Idiot Glee as the snare lays down a fast metronome for Friley to bring in his light, bouncy keys. There are no vocals on the track which allows the band to warm up, focus on setting the tone for the night, and get the crowd grooving, which it did.
As “Deep Warm Somthing” tapers off, audio adjustments are made before the band gets into the first single off LP5 “I Don’t Feel Right.” On this track, Friley’s signature reverberated vocals are heard for the first time of the night. His delivery is somber and he doesn’t rush, sounding like a psychedelic lounge singer as abrasive, almost barking, samples are looped over the melodic synthesizer keys. It all blends so well even as the sounds merge into a cacophony of vocals, reverbs, samples and instruments.
The show progresses and the band showcases a few older tracks as “Swimming Pool” from 2014’s 4 is played back-to-back with “Pipes” from 2013’s Life Without Jazz. The organs that open “Swimming Pool” pairs well with Friley’s slow, James Murphy-esque vocals before the drums kick in and the band repeats the question “How can you make your love so sweet?” The transistion is almost seamless as the organs come back in with a bouncy beat for “Pipes.”
After previewing a couple new tracks, “Baby (I Could Be Your Bone)” and “The Whip,” the band settled in for epic renditions of “Live Without Jazz” and “Evergreen Psycho,” the second single off the new album. The baseline takes us for a walk, and as Friley sings “Life without music/life without jazz/is tearing me up inside…” you feel the crooner’s pain. Indeed, what would life without jazz be anyway? I’d hate to find out. “Evergreen Psycho” slows the set down a bit, yet the band brings the new song to life and does justice to the excellent music video for the track.
Now here’s where things get wild. The usually chill stage presence of Idiot Glee is traded in for some intense psych-rock jamming as the last few tracks are played. The last sprint of the set, containing both old and new tracks are going to be a great introduction to new fans as they discover Idiot Glee during the upcoming tour.
Beginning with the fast-paced crowd favorite Pinkwood off Jazz, the song propositions the crowd to “Dance if you want to” before being broken down into an awesome, long erratic jam session that leads perfectly into the standout song off the new album “Personal Computer Television.”
Beginning like no other track off any previous album, “PCTV” starts with an addictive hip-hop drum loop that is reminicent of the opening beat to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” (seriously, check the tracks out back-to-back, no pun intended). Friely’s vocals echo as the beat stays fast, slowly ramping up as the track takes a dark, electric piano-laden turn. After the show, when asked if Personal Computer Televison is the best song off Idiot Glee, Friley quickly responded, “We think so!” Us too.
Rounding out the set the last track off Idiot Glee, “The River” which is a definitive Idiot Glee song. Relying mainly on a solo piano, “The River” is a beautiful, slow, soothing tune that comes off initially as a love song, however at the heart of it, the song poses the existential question man has asked since the dawn of time: “how did we get here?” Soon, the drums get slower, the piano begins to fade and the set comes to a finish.
Playing eight of the ten tracks off the fifth LP, Idiot Glee performed nearly every new song, proving that each can hold their own in a live setting, something not every song from previous albums can pull off. The show was an excellent homecoming for James Friley and Company before they set off on a full North American tour, followed by a European leg in June, and a few dates in Japan in the Fall. A full tour schedule can be found in a previous post where DAB hypes the new album.
Be sure to check Idiot Glee’s website for the latest news on the talented Lexington musician, and listen to the live show reviewed in this post here:
Setlist: Al’s Bar – Lexington, KY. – 1/29/30
Deep Warm Somthing
I Don’t Feel Right
Baby (I Could Be Your Bone)
Life Without Jazz
Chinese New Year
Personal Computer Television
Just For the Day