PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Crack the Sky Whipped Up a Long and Tremendous Night at the Ardmore Music Hall

Jordan Blum
Photo courtesy of the artist

With almost universally relentless showmanship and a relatively unmatched repertoire (compared to their peers), Crack the Sky mesmerized all in attendance from beginning to end.

West Virginia troupe Crack the Sky has always been among the most eclectic rock bands of their era. Founded in the early 1970s, their expansive catalog of over a dozen studio albums reveals a plethora of genre-melding classics that have sustained their sizable and deeply dedicated fanbase for nearly 45 years. In support of their two latest outings—a brand new studio collection called Living in Reverse and a compilation of reimagined classics called Crackology—the sextet adorned the Ardmore Music Hall in Ardmore, Pennsylvania on Sunday, 27 January. From start to finish, their staggering stamina and attention to detail were surprising and captivating, as was their focus on their oldest classics (thus, they blew away the crowd in terms of both performance and setlist). Frankly, few of today's most youthful rock bands could hold a candle to the skill, variety, and enthusiasm Crack the Sky whipped up.

It's a testament to their longevity and dedication that several original members remain, including songwriter/vocalist John Palumbo (who, despite being visibly and understandably weary while everyone else was energized, still sounded great), drummer Joey D'Amico, and guitarist Rick Witkowski. (Rounding out the line-up were longtime guitarist Bobby Hird, keyboardist Glenn Workman, and bassist Dave DeMarco.) While the venue was relatively small, it was completely packed with diehard enthusiasts; likewise, the lack of visual spectacle (outside of the token alternating colored lights) didn't hurt the experience one bit. After all, the musicianship and songwriting were the focal points, and on that front, Crack the Sky astounding for nearly two and a half hours.

Naturally, they showcased Living in Reverse by pulling out "Talk Talk", "Raining Rain", and "Home Tonight". Honestly, all three were somewhat generic, but the band nonetheless made them engaging enough with their sheer fervor and tightness (the former's programmed backing was an interesting choice, too). Along the same lines, 1989's title track "From the Greenhouse" and 2015's "Rachel" impressed with intriguing harmonies and heartfelt verses, whereas the two cuts from 1980's White Music—"Skin Deep" and encore cut "Hot Razors in My Heart"—brought some lively funk and downtrodden edge to the evening.

As enjoyable as those later tracks were, the true highlights of Crack the Sky's arsenal were the gems from their first three LPs (1975's Crack the Sky, 1976's Animal Notes, and 1978's Safety in Numbers). Specifically, "Nuclear Apathy" still astounds with its intricate central acoustic guitar motif, dizzyingly unstable arrangement, and multiple vocal sections (sung in part by D'Amico); in contrast, "Long Nights" and "Lighten Up McGraw" temptingly and sophisticatedly mellowed the mood a bit. The middle record's "Animal Skins" found Palumbo wearing Dylan-esque black glasses while Hird, DeMarco, and Witkowski sat with acoustic instruments for a bit of arid psychedelia.

Unexpectedly, their introduction to the world (which Rolling Stone justly named "Debut Album of the Year") got the greatest consideration via more than half of the sequence (such as "Hold On", "Sea Epic", "Robots for Ronnie", "She's a Dancer", and "Mind Baby"). Easily the two standouts of the whole concert, however, were the astonishing extended editions of "Ice" and "Surf City" (the latter of which was spliced with several other tracks, like "I Don't Have a Tie" and "We Want Mine"). The levels of skill and inventiveness displayed for both were nothing short of jaw-dropping, with each musician proving virtuosic at several points.

With their almost universally relentless showmanship and relatively unmatched repertoire (compared to their peers), Crack the Sky mesmerized all in attendance from beginning to end. While DeMarco, Witkowski, and Hird were the most overt technical stunners, all five instrumentalists were very impressive. As for Palumbo, his fairly fatigued presence took nothing away from his singing or the luster of his bandmates. All in all, they surely delivered on everything audience members wanted—and more—while demonstrating that sometimes it's the veterans who still do rock music the best.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.