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Concert Review: Norfolk & Western at The Somerville Theater

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It is a misty night in Davis Square, a bustling district on the outskirts of Boston. Consisting primarily of college students and many people not deterred by the rain on a Friday night, the folks of Somerville know right where to go on a night like this: The Somerville Theater, a cozy, double-use repertory theater. Featuring a cinema, as well as a grand auditorium for performances occupying the main floor, the venue's charm creates a vintage sentiment in the district. It is classic and appealing for those who desire a slight taste of something new, all the while containing a soft sense of old-style entertainment.

The smell of fresh popcorn really sets the tone for a humble night. People are bustling ever so quietly to get seated. Dimly lit, and ever so hushed — the atmosphere was heavy with anticipation. With each patron relaxed and awaiting the inception of the show.

Norfolk & Western are supporting Mirah on her fall tour. I must say, both acts compliment each other very well. Coming all the way from Portland, OR, neither artist boasts any elements of exhaustion from the road. Playing lusted, well written songs transcribed in a manner not many people are used to hearing. Norfolk & Western have a pleasant demeanor about their sound, forwarding a fashion that favors that of the old fashioned stage for which they play upon.

Adam Selzer the band's founder and front-man is certainly not an amateur to the indie music business, having played with M.Ward, as well as supporting M. on previous tours. The group creates a folk-tastic, harmonious dynamic; each member providing their own significant experiences. Rachel Blumberg, the former drummer of The Decemberists, is a key element to Norfolk & Western with a drumming style to counter their organic manner. Rachel also provides much of the song-writing in addition to the percussion. The other band members rotate:Tony Moreno, Amanda Lawrence, Dave Depper, and Cory Gray each bring a homage and respectable measure to the band, with other projects consisting of: Horsefeathers, The Village Green, and Blanket Music.
This all goes to say that Norfolk & Western is a well-rounded circuit of musicians.

The show went off without a hitch, fairing a few songs from the older-stuff such as “Barrels on Fire” off The Unsung Colony (2006) – a personal favorite of mine. They are touring in support of their newest album Dinero Severo, which in my opinion is a different aspect of their ‘typical’ genre all together.

The past albums have come to incorporate a softer, slightly darker side of indie/folk. Whereas Dinero Severo, and even as early as  A Gilded Age (2006), they have changed to a lighter more pop orientated musing.

I was very interested in experiencing what this show had to offer and in hearing the new album performed. I have been a long time fan of the older stuff, but when Dinero Severo came to my attention, I became indifferent. Norfolk & Western did indeed prove my doubts; their set was short but skilled. They played a clever mix of songs from each older album, and making good time for the new record.

Livening up the crowd a bit, “Hiding Home” was a faster pitch and took the hush out of the atmosphere. A difficult stance for Adam Selzer to be in; the venue was entirely seated. Thus’ leaving little help to the band in getting the audience to participate with the essence of the more pop-orientated songs. Not an easy pursuit for any band to be playing to a somber crowd on a rainy night, with fresh material from a newer angle. All things considered, I am contented with how the show played out entirely.

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