There has been a lot of hype surrounding opener We Are Scientists’ live show. I had heard With Love and Squalor and found myself drawn to a couple of stand-out songs; I definitely saw how this band could be great live. There was a die-hard fan seated next to me at the bar. Before the show he reiterated that the band deserve their reputation as dance-punk kings of the stage.
Ambulance, Ltd + We Are Scientists
22 Oct 2005: Black Cat Washington, DC
We Are Scientists’ opened with “This Scene is Dead”. Apparently, this song’s title is correct: the crowd largely regarded the band with indifference. Fortunately, the handful of fans that were paying attention were rowdy enough to fuel their performance.
“Callbacks” came midway and was the best song of the night. “Listen in awe,” quipped bassist Chris Cain before the song, “try to deny the power.” Try the audience did. As We Are Scientists were finishing their set, the die-hard fan sitting next to me commented that he was surprised the crowd wasn’t more into the show. “Usually,” he said, “the place goes crazy.” Unfortunately, these things happen; sometimes, no matter how hard a band plays, the audience just doesn’t respond.
We Are Scientists weren’t the only band that suffered at the hands of an unresponsive crowd. Ambulance, Ltd had to overcome the same obstacle, but they had a bit more success.
“Heavy Lifting”, opened; “Anecdote” followed. Ambulance Ltd is a band that is fond of subtlety. But, live that subtlety can be a curse. The band five songs into the set before the smoldering audience began to come alive, dancing ever so slightly. A few songs later, after the first notes of “Stay Where You Are”, a dull cheer went up through the crowd. Finally.
I was starting to worry the show was going to be a train wreck.
Ambulance Ltd continued dutifully through the set, playing nearly every song from the debut LP, including “Primitive” and “Ophelia”. Dispersed throughout the set was a pair of new songs that sounded much like those from the debut—melodic, slow burners.
Also included in the set was a cover of Neil Young’s “This is Nowhere”. It takes some amount of gusto to pick Young and the Velvet Underground (“Ocean” came later as the encore) as the covers to play. Ambulance Ltd handled both with the same subtlety it approached the rest of the set. Depending on how strongly you feel about Young and the Velvet Underground would dictate your reaction. Neither was spellbinding, but both were good.
To close the show Ambulance Ltd performed an excellent version “Yoga Means Union”. I can’t say my mind was blown or that either band blew my hair back, but both played the songs I wanted to hear the way I imagined they should sound live. I was satisfied with that. I would guess most there felt the same: just satisfied.