David Bazan in Concert

David Bazan

Although David Bazan was all the buzz last summer when I was at Cornerstone, I paid the buzz no heed since I’d never heard of him and had only vaguely heard of his former band, Pedro the Lion.  However, enough people mentioned to me the power of his latest album, commonly referred to as his “break-up with God album,” that I purchased it.  In the Chicago Reader, Jessica Hopper wrote,

Bazan’s Curse Your Branches, due September 1 [2009] on Barsuk, is a visceral accounting of what happened after that. It’s a harrowing breakup record—except he’s dumping God, Jesus, and the evangelical life. It’s his first full-length solo album and also his most autobiographical effort: its drunken narratives, spasms of spiritual dissonance, and family tensions are all scenes from the recent past.

Bazan and his current band are powerful in concert, as witnessed by Chris Scharen and me (and a couple hundred others, including not a few Porchians) last night at the Turf Club in St. Paul.

As he is known to do, three different times during the show he asked the crowd, “Are there any questions at this point in the show?”  Among of the Q&A’s were:

Q: “What do you think of Job?”

DB: “You mean the fictional character from the Old Testament?”

[Laughter, followed by a loud sigh from the questioner; then Bazan said something to the effect of, "You keep believing, honey."]

and

Q: “Will you play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen?”

DB: “No, he asked people to stop playing that.  I don’t obey many people, but I do obey Leonard Cohen.”

Q: “Well, what’s your favorite verse?”

DB: “Verses three and four are pretty great, but no one sings them.  But the first verse, whaddya gonna do? It’s the best fucking verse ever written.”

Bazan’s own conversion from the Assemblies of God, evangelical Christianity of his youth to the troubled agnosticism of today is cataloged in the current album.  His knowledge of that former world is evident in lyrics like, “some in my family are already interceding for me.”

His journey is so honest, in fact, that it almost takes your breath away.  It’s just so very rare to hear honesty like that.  But what I found even more noteworthy — both last night and at Cornerstone — was how many Christians, young and old, resonate with Bazan and his lyrics.  As we sang along last night, I couldn’t help but feel that I was both betraying the steadfast faith in which I was reared, and also joining the Psalmist in decrying God’s absence.

Bazan ended the show with an amazingly powerful version of “In Stitches,” the lyrics of which are,

This brown liquor wets my tongue
My fingers find the stitches
Firmly back and forth they run
I need no other memory
Of the bits of me I left
When all this lethal drinking
Is hopefully to forget
About you

I might as well admit it
Like I’ve even got a choice
The crew have killed the captain
But they still can hear his voice
A shadow on the water
A whisper in the wind
On long walks my with daughter
Who is lately full of questions
About you
About you

  • Zach Lind

    Right on, Tony. His honestly is only matched by his ability to shape his music. As someone who makes a living at making records, I listen to his last album and wonder how he makes it sound so easy. It sounds effortless but speaking from experience, it’s anything but.

    I saw him play on this tour when he came through Tempe. It was fantastic. He’s an under appreciated gem.

  • Austin

    So glad you got to see him Tony. I loved Pedro the Lion for years and saw them play a few times. This new album is at least as good as the best Pedro records (like “Control”, another masterpiece). I have been listening to “Curse Your Branches” constantly for about 6 months. His honesty in this album, as you say, is truly breathtaking and refreshing.

  • http://faithasawayoflife.typepad.com/blog/ Chris

    T, it is particularly moving to learn that his dad plays the piano on “In Stitches” for the album. A moving testament to the love of a father in the midst a painful breaking that has resonances of the prodigal. Thanks for going–it was a good time, and a holy moment in my Easter celebration.

  • toddh

    I’d recommend that album too. It is somewhat painful to listen to, but he asks hard questions that need to be wrestled with. I’d rather listen to him asking hard questions about faith than most of the nonsensical drivel on the radio.


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