LIVE: Darlingside @ The Egg, 1/12/19

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Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

Wow. Second gig of 2019 under my belt and already a serious contender for best / most favorite of the year. Darlingside gave a magical performance at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre earlier this month that held a sold-out crowd spellbound.

The last time the band appeared at this venue was in December, 2017, when they also transported the audience with an intimate display that I was fortunate to witness. As I wrote at the time, the four-piece played one of the quietest shows I can remember, a delicate mix of mainly acoustic instruments and their signature sound – their sublime vocals. All four members sing, alternating lead & harmony, blending beautifully.

This time around the sonic palette was enhanced by the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, who did a terrific job of adding to the Darlingside sound without overpowering it. The stage seemed hardly big enough to hold this talented group of students, incorporating a full orchestral string section plus two keyboardists, all under the direction of conductor Kevin Oates.

The beaming smiles from the Darlingside members as they heard their songs transformed spoke volumes. This short experiment consists of just three gigs at the moment, and my suggestion would be to extend this venture further, such is its promise.

Darlingside are not particularly well known beyond their loyal fan base, but here is music full of warmth, wit and heart that could see a much greater commercial acceptance given the exposure of say a PBS-TV special. Echoes of Simon & Garfunkel, CSNY and the Fleet Foxes are apparent, but there’s also something unique in their pastoral yet futuristic chamber folk pop.

The orchestra opened the show with an overture of sorts, before the band entered, and they then backed them on the first few numbers. There followed a band only segment that included a stunning acapella version of Neil Young’s “Red Sun,” which will be hard to beat as the most drop dead gorgeous thing I will hear all year. Likewise a new song, “Back to the Heart Again”, accompanied only by Harris Paseltiner’s acoustic guitar and sung beyond the monitors, showcased their superb vocal prowess. At times like this Darlingside really do create a sonic world of their own.

The concert then swept to a glorious conclusion with the orchestra returning to power up some of the band’s more uptempo songs.

Darlingside are also a wacky likeable bunch of nerds. Their between-song banter verges just on the right side of charming, like Auyon Mukharji’s rambling anecdote about the band trying to decide what beer to buy for an apres gig get together and the various merits of IPA.

Paseltiner plays guitar and cello, and Mukharji handles violin and mandolin. The band is rounded out by bass guitar and kick drum player Dave Senft and Don Mitchell on guitar, banjo and a curious synthesizer that looks like a socket board and provides a delightful ’60s science fiction movie soundtrack flavor to some of the arrangements.

I really don’t think there’s another band like them, and that’s rather wonderful in itself. They are coming back to Greater Nippertown for a pair of concerts on Thursday, April 11 at Caffe Lena (definitely no room for the orchestra there, though), and I highly recommend you check them out.

DARLINGSIDE SET LIST
Overture – medley
Extralife
Singularity
Eschaton
Hold Your Head Up High
Go Back
White Horses
My Gal My Guy
Red Sun (Neil Young)
Good for You
Back to the Heart Again
Harrison Ford
The Ancestor
Orion
Best of the Best of Times
The God of Loss
ENCORE
Blow the House Down

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