I think somewhere in the past year These United States overtook the Apples in Stereo and Andrew Bird as the group I’ve seen the most in concert. It was fairly inevitable, given that they do about three complete US tours a year and 3/5 of them live in Lexington. But the craziest thing is that for all the times I’ve seen them, I’ve yet to have my excitement for their shows drop in the least. If anything, these days I get more excited to see them.
Last night’s show at Cosmic Charlie’s was hands-down the best time I’ve ever seen These United States. I commented to the guys before the show that they seemed more chipper than they had in a while and they chalked it up to having just written 16 songs for their next album (yeah, they put out one a year). So they were feeling good and looked pretty excited to get back on the road.
The first big surprise of the night was a huge treat. I found out before the show that TUS had done a couple covers at their Halloween show: “Monster Mash,” “Woolly Bully” and “Werewolves of London.” I got a little jealous, since they’d never done any covers in Lexington. Well, I’m sure my jaw was hanging open when they launched into Warren Zevon’s classic “Werewolves of London” about four songs into their set. They skipped a verse, sure, but it was just fantastic amounts of fun.
Toward the end of the set I could see someone behind the stage tuning up a guitar. Was it one of the opening guys putting away their equipment? (then why tune it?) Was Duane from Chico Fellini going to join them? Well it turned out that my old buddy Scott Whiddon came out to join them on guitar for “Six Fast Bullets.” Scott is a teacher at Transylvania University here in Lexington, a member of the local band Some Other Meanness and a huge supporter of These United States. It was also his birthday week, so that worked out really well.
Now, ordinarily I’d be skeptical of adding a guest guitarist to a band that already has three guitarists, but it gave These United States a unique opportunity to goof off in the best possible way. Jesse put down his guitar and took full reign of the stage, bobbing over to both sides and weaving his way through the crowd. Meanwhile Justin and Scott added some nice dueling guitar solos to the song that made me think of watching Nels and Pat of Wilco duel over “Hoodoo Voodoo” at the Voodoo Music Festival in New Orleans. The only downside is that now I’m always going to want a crazy dual guitar solo when they play “Six Fast Bullets.” But I guess that’s the problem with raising the bar…
Loads more photos after the break.