“This is the first song we ever wrote,” announces Matt Skiba with more enthusiasm and energy than he should rightly have. “It’s called ’97.”
It’s surely no coincidence that, as the last song of the last night of Alkaline Trio’s four night, eight album stint in New York City, it’s the 97th song they play. As per Los Angeles and Chicago, the trio play two albums a night, starting with their last and their first, and working their way in backwards and forwards respectively. Which means this fourth and final evening, it’s Crimson followed by Good Mourning. And while it’s definitely true that From Here To Infirmary brought the band to the attention of a much wider audience, the reaction to Good Mourning tonight eclipses any of the other records played on this short tour.
It’s Crimson first, though. Coming out for the fourth night in a row to Jim Croce’s Time In A Bottle, the sinister strains of Time To Waste fill the room before that song explodes into a flurry of guitars, dark angst and poppy hooks. While the performance of From Here To Infirmary – played the previous night – felt ever so slightly perfunctory, Crimson is full of spirit. The Poison almost bursts out of its skin, Andiano’s lead vocals urgent and brimming with passion, while the dark despair of Dethbed and its soaring chorus – ‘They found me face down in the street on the night you left to find another place to sleep in rain and regret’ – are belted back by the crowd with fire and fury. The big choruses of Burn and Mercy Me also thrive live. And while the last half of the album doesn’t quite have the same hooks as the first half, the likes of Settle For Satin and Prevent This Tragedy are equally enthralling and engaging.
There’s little pause between Crimson’s end and Good Mourning’s beginning – barely time to catch breath before the opening riff of This Could Be Love sends shivers around the room and visibly ups the energy levels. From then on, the record is a pulsating explosion of poetic romanticism caught somewhere between punk and pop, Andriano’s professions of profound love offset by Skiba’s penchant for the grim and grisly, morose and morbid. Whether it’s We’ve Had Enough or One Hundred Stories, Continental or All On Black, the songs surge with dramatic savagery. Skiba’s voice is rough and raw and real and ragged, ripped by the torment of the songs; Andriano’s is smoother and softer, offering some kind of solace in a world haunted by ghosts, real and imagined. Nowhere is that more obvious than on the album’s final tracks – the jaunty, hopeful escapism of Andriano’s If We Never Go Inside followed by the slow and sombre lament of Skiba’s Blue In The Face – albeit one transformed turned into a rousing, full-band anthem.
The band don’t leave the stage, merely instruct the crowd to close their eyes, then reopen them. In that blink of an eye, the Trio travel back in time to their beginnings, to the beautiful poetry of playing ’97 as their 97th song. “I don’t deserve this,” both Skiba and the crowd sing at the top of their lungs as the song and the evening reach their crescendo. Neither could be more wrong.