The moment Pedro The Lion hit the stage, one particularly amorous couple in the audience immediately embraced, engaging in a loud public display of affection. Shucks, they sure looked like they were in love. And had this been a concert given by the late Marvin Gaye, for example, filled with extremely romantic songs like “Sexual Healing,” such lovebird-y behavior would have been perfectly appropriate. But since Pedro The Lion songs rarely even hint at the up side of male/female relationships, spying on this couple became a little like watching a movie where the soundtrack didn’t quite match what was happening up on the screen.
Pedro The Lion is a vehicle for David Bazan’s brutally honest songwriting, and the group’s latest effort, called Control, takes an unflinching look at marital infidelity (among many other unsavory human behaviors) with its songs. The group may have used its encore as a forum for three new songs, but the bulk of this hour-plus concert was drawn mainly from its gripping new work.
Bazan sings his songs -- like “Options,” where one partner considers divorcing the other, and “Second Best,” in which a man faces his own sexual inadequacies -- with numb and determined matter-of-fact-ness. Even when his band mates – which also included members of Ester Drang on many numbers – make the music roar with momentum, Bazan appears seemingly unmoved by the tumult going on all around him, like the calm in the eye of a storm.
In between songs, Bazan politely answered questions from the audience. From these queries, we learned that Romans is probably his favorite book of the Bible, and that he hasn’t had any second thoughts about some of the salty language that found its way into the lyrics of Control. And although the subject never came up during any of these informal Q&A sessions, Bazan has no intentions of shying away from uncomfortable subject matter – at least if the three new songs he performed this night provide any clues. One of these was about a man whose greatest regret was getting married, while another new composition took a decidedly anti-war stance, and was called “Backwoods Nation.”
Pedro The Lion was preceded by a set from Stratford 4. This San Francisco quartet’s sound is oftentimes compared to “shoegazing” outfits like My Bloody Valentine. And while such guitar-centric elements are undeniably present in this band’s approach, selections like “When the Ocean Meets the Eye” show off this outfit’s equally enjoyable Stones-y side. Ester Drang opened this concert, and although they appeared to be a little distracted by sound problems, these Oklahomans nevertheless created a winning, if short but sweet, atmosphere of orchestral pop.