Even after a truly aerobic 10-song set, We Barbarians’ lead singer David Quon remained gracious, squatting at the edge of the Middle East Downstairs’ stage to shake outstretched hands. At the sold-out show on Thursday, August 5th, We Barbarians treated every phrase, song, and juncture with devotion and care.
With little notice, Quon plunged into the opener “Spun Out.” Committed to every vocal upsurge, Quon strained a passionate scowl, veins pulsing a heated heartbeat on his neck. All three members were with mics, and the vocals soared with epochal purpose, each track feeling a bit grander than its recorded counterpart. At the start of “War Clouds,” drummer Nathan Warkentin pounded a bass drum intro from the drum riser and Quon momentarily set his guitar aside to deliver unadorned chords, before returning to it to erupt into a guitar-heavy climax.
But not every song was excessively amplified, allowing We Barbarians to preserve the tenderness of their more delicately crafted songs. Following the volatile “War Clouds,” Warkentin eased into a shimmering cymbal, creating an atmospheric start for “Sixes & Sevens.” As the song’s rhythmic tension was shrouded in a wash of airy guitar, Quon’s movements grew subdued, only moving slightly to gesticulate lyrics. In “Trickle Down,” bassist Van Heule gazed at Quon with a mysteriousness that seemed to match the song’s intent. Eyes closed and eyebrows raised, Quon placed each word differently, imitating the intimacy of an informal conversation.
At 6:55 am that morning, We Barbarians had tweeted, “Off to Boston in our jalopy that has no modern ac unit and leather seats. Worth it.” The group might be even more upbeat about their return to Boston on October 1st with Ra Ra Riot, since by then AC issue should be moot.