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  THE THE w/ Macha  
  The Roxy Theatre  
  Atlanta, GA  
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The The are one of my favorite bands ever. I relate to Matt Johnson's self-critical lyricism, and the fact that he layers those lyrics over great tunes doesn't hurt. Their second full-length release, Soul Mining was one of the two CD's i bought when i first got a CD player. I say all of this so that you realize i might be a little biased.

Matt Johnson is the only permanent member of The The, and the band has metamorphized many times in its career, from the keyboard-y pop of Soul Mining to the 80's dance stylings of Infected to the Modern Rock/Pop of Dusk to the guitar-driven urbanized blues of Naked Self, the current outing and impetus for this tour. In all honesty the heavy guitars of the new album took some getting used to, but again Johnson's self-critical lyrics kept me entertained. I have decided, after much internal wrangling, that i LIKE the album. However, since the band had changed so much it was with a slight degree of trepidation that i approached this show. How would it sound live?

Anyway, i couldn't stay away -- both morbid curiousity and my overwhelming love of The The forced me to the show.

The open act was Athens GA based post-hippy/world music ensemble, Macha. I have seen them several times. The first time their odd melodies surprised me, and i liked the band. Everytime since then they have seemed hollow and pretentious -- they make music in strange ways as if to say "Hey, aren't we cool! Just look at us experiment!" (This is how i feel of the entire "Elephant 6" genre, with which Macha are loosely associated. But don't get me started on that!) Anyway, this time they did not seem pretentious at all. In fact, they sounded GOOD. Why? Well, basically they were mixed poorly -- the drums were overmiked and pretty much overpowered all of the other instrumentation. Which, i now realize, is how they should sound! More drums, less funky keyboards and hammered dulcimer, please. Anyway, i found myself liking Macha again. We'll see how long it lasts this time.....

But Macha were just filler as i waited.

The current incarnation of The The is as a four-piece. Matt Johnson on guitars and vocals. A guy playing five-string bass and doing backing vocals. Some american guy on lead guitar (i only know he was American because at one point he and Matt bantered, and guitar-boy did NOT have a British accent...) And there was some hard-working Rasta dude on drums and keyboards. (That Rasta guy really held the show together. Kudos to him!) This lineup is the lineup of a Guitar Rawk Band, and that is what The The have become. The main set showcased mostly songs off of Naked Self to great effect. Matt did a fine job of putting this band together, and the slow, forceful guitarwork really came across well live.

But it was the encore that made my life worth living for the next few months! The band left the stage after the main set, and the usual cheering, stomping, and clapping occurred. Then Matt came out alone with his guitar and played True Happiness This Way Lies, the crowd bellowing to the call-and-response of the lyrics. Then the rest of the band quietly took the stage and they launched into a slow, achingly beautiful rendition of Uncertain Smile. It was perfect, and i wish that Mr. Johnson would record that version of the song so that i could listen to it again and again at my liesure. Next up was a slower, rocking version of Infected, and again the song worked remarkably well in its new incarnation. The show ended with a powerful and loud version of Love Is Stronger Than Death. This song does not make my Top 10 Favorite The The Songs despite being their biggest hit in the USA. Nonetheless, it was the perfect end to the evening, as the crowd reacted very strongly to its familiar melody.

Honestly, i do not know how the show could have been more enjoyable! Excellent work. I only wish he would play in my vicinity again, with less than the 7 years between this concert and the previous one! But, i shall wait....

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