Monday, December 28, 2015

As Tall As Lions at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Dan Nigro
In 2001 in Long Island, New York, several high school friends were playing in a band called Sundaze. As personnel changed, the remaining musicians in 2002 formed As Tall As Lions, a more adventurous band that mixed soft rock and ambient music through thoughtful lyrics and crisp harmonies. The new band recorded three albums and nurtured a cult audience before playing its final shows at the Highline Ballroom in December 2010. The musicians then worked on independent projects. After five years apart, however, the band announced a series of reunion gigs in Los Angeles and New York.

As Tall As Lions' first of two nights at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight saw many family members hanging over the balcony to welcome the band to its hometown stage. Vocalist/guitarist Daniel Nigro, guitarist Saen Fitzgerald, bassist Julio Tavarez and drummer Cliff Sarcona were joined onstage by a horn section and started the set with "Stab City." Throughout the set, the band's textured soundscapes were tight and so well-rehearsed that it was easy to dismiss that the band had not performed these songs in five years. The musicians have not written new songs, so the evening was a retrospective, with about half of the songs coming from the band's self-titled album. The musicians followed their old formula, backing Nigro's soft vocals with a powerful backup that repeatedly escalated and deescalated as the mood demanded. If Nigro was in danger of forgetting his lyrics, he had the support of the audience, which sang along loudly for most of the songs. When the band performed its farewell concerts in 2010, the showroom was the much smaller Highline Ballroom; the reality that the band now was playing its largest venue ever in New York indicated that its audience has only grown over time and As Tall As Lions' unique take on commercial alternative rock is more in demand than ever.

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