Lightning Dust @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 8/27/09

Lightning Dust
Lightning Dust’s self-titled album from 2007 was so sparse that most of its arrangements were easily replicated live by the band’s two members, Amber Webber and Josh Wells. But the pair’s new album, the gorgeous Infinite Light, is significantly more elaborate than the debut, meaning that the group has now expanded to a four-piece touring lineup, including a drummer and Amber’s twin sister Ashley on bass and backup vocals.

Although the new album dropped over three weeks ago, Lightning Dust had not played a hometown release show until last night, when the newly expanded outfit appeared at the Biltmore. The venue was packed, with Black Mountain cohort Stephen McBean lurking conspicuously in the wings, suggesting that the group’s increased press coverage is starting to pay off.

Even with two additional musicians in the fold, many of the live arrangements were significantly pared down from the lush album cuts. Without its programmed beat, “I Knew” was a straightforward country gallop, only Wells’s synth arpeggios hinting at the electro-tinged studio version. “The Times” was similarly unadorned, lacking its “Sympathy for the Devil”-aping bongo/shaker percussion.

Given that this was a hometown show, Lightning Dust was also able to enlist some additional help from friends; during several songs, they were joined onstage by a cellist and a violinist, and these moments of six-piece grandeur were the highlights of the set. The marching beat and “Eleanor Rigby”-style strings of “Dreamer” were chilling, while the extended outro of “Take It Home” was cinematic in its sweeping grandeur.

Surprisingly, given that the show was a release party for Infinite Light, the band ended with a series of cuts from its self-titled album. The main set finished with the rollicking folk stomper “Wind Me Up,” while the encore consisted of the haunting ballads “Highway” and “Take Me Back.” It was a surprising choice to end a triumphant hometown show on such a bleak note. Still, given that they didn’t even play the new internet single “Never Seen,” Webber and Wells clearly weren’t interested in pandering to their newly-won Pitchfork fanbase.
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