Sunday: Alkaline Trio Plays Third S.F. Show in a Month; Remains Compulsive Viewing

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Bri DeLibertis
Alkaline Trio at Bottom of the Hill Sunday night.
Alkaline Trio
July 17, 2011
@ Bottom of the Hill


Better than: Sitting at home and reminiscing about how great music was ten years ago.

Back in 2003, Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba did a last-minute acoustic set in the back room of SOMA's Cat Club. There was almost no publicity and it was organized at the last minute (he lived in Berkeley) so it was an incredibly intimate set, heartfelt and full of passion. It was a good indication of where Skiba was at the time -- the performance was extremely honest, but the vocalist was prone to forgetting lyrics after one too many drinks -- something that genuinely endeared him to fans, but didn't give the best representation of what he was capable of as a performer.

Fast forward a couple of years, and with fifth album, Crimson, hitting the shelves, Alkaline Trio had transformed into an extremely polished live prospect, dressed in suits, musically flawless -- and stiffer than any of their old fans really wanted.
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Bri DeLibertis
Tonight -- shortly after the release of Damnesia, their eighth full-length -- Skiba, bassist/ vocalist Dan Andriano, and drummer Derek Grant seem to have finally found a perfect balance: musically flawless (no lyrics forgotten this evening either), but personally relaxed. They look happy and in their element. They're not above getting goofy before their final song (joking about not leaving the stage between the end of the set and the encore) and Skiba merrily gives stage-diving tips when needed. They carry a self-assured glow tonight -- like they've already proved everything they had to prove and now they're just having fun -- and they all look healthier than ever.

The joy they're clearly experiencing is infectious, too -- tonight's set is one gigantic singalong from start to finish. The Trio may not be at the very height of its popularity anymore, but everyone in the room tonight feels privileged to see this band in a room this small (even though it played here last month and Slim's last night), and for good reason. The members of Alkaline Trio are still masters at what they do -- perfectly crafted melodic punk songs with often-sensitive subject matter and a dark edge. No one -- seriously, no one -- does this better than them.

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Bri DeLibertis
From joyous opener "Mercy Me" through an absolutely stunning rendition of "I Lied My Face Off" all the way to "Crawl" (the line "Never had a drink that I didn't like/Got a taste of you, threw up all night" remains a stroke of genius) and the always-magnificent "My Friend Peter," there's little more that Alkaline Trio could give us tonight (except, according to one loud audience member, an airing of "Clavicle").

Along the way, "Goodbye Forever" is dedicated to recently-departed Jackass star Ryan Dunn; "Old School Reasons" is dedicated to support band -- and legends in their own right -- Smoking Popes; and "Cringe" is dedicated to Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape. It all feels like a family affair.

And it's testament to the band that no one leaves this show 'til the bitter (sweet) end. This is compulsive viewing -- not because of anything crazy happening onstage, but simply because Alkaline Trio's body of work is so damn impressive (and beloved) that it's impossible to turn away. They've played in the city three times in the last month -- but if this band came back next week, we'd still go see them again.

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Bri DeLibertis

Setlist:
Mercy Me
In Vein
All on Black
Snake Oil Tanker
Another Innocent Girl
Goodbye Forever
Hating Every Minute
Old School Reasons
I Lied My Face Off
Calling All Skeletons
San Francisco
This Could Be Love
If You Had a Bad Time
You've Got So Far to Go
Blue in the Face
Olde English 800
I Held Her in My Arms
Cringe
Crawl
My Friend Peter

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Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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"Calling All Skeletons" was played after "This Could Be Love"; the song you have listed as "If You Had A Bad Time" is actually "Burned is the House."

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