Show Review

Southeast Engine, Live at The Treehouse

Brian Ahnmark
“Tour” is insufficient terminology to describe Southeast Engine's most recent jaunt around the U.S.

“Victory lap” is more appropriate.

Late April marked the triumphant homecoming for the Athens-based quartet following a lengthy leg on the West Coast. The April 28th show at The Treehouse in Columbus was the band's first area appearance since the March 2011 release of Canary, an exquisite folk-rock concept album centered upon a southeastern Ohio family's tribulations during the Great Depression. Thursday night's concert was a showcase for the new record, featuring spirited performances of five songs from Canary.

The show opened with a curveball, as bassist Jesse Remnant and keyboardist Billy Matheny traded jobs. Remnant delivered a lovely, mournful piano instrumental straight out of an old-timey bar; it was a suitable display for the all-too-brief melody, which whispers by as a “tweener” on Canary. From there, Southeast Engine ripped through “Red Lake Shore” (featuring Matheny on bass), “Cold Front Blues” and “At Least We Have Each Other.” The new songs, already honed to gritty perfection on the road, translated seamlessly from album to stage – as they should, since Southeast Engine recorded the bulk of Canary live in-studio last winter. Loving ballad “Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains” hushed the enraptured crowd, as did the inspiring “New Growth” with its timely message of rebirth and renewal.

The band dug into its catalog for the remainder of the set. The epic build-and-release of “Preparing for the Flood” triggered a frantic take of “Malcontent” (both from 2009's From the Forest to the Sea). “We Have You Surrounded,” a standout from 2007's A Wheel Within a Wheel, found the band frozen in a calculated mid-song dramatic pause – until drummer Leo DeLuca collapsed into his kit and the moment dissolved into laughter.

“Theoretically,” frontman Adam Remnant explained, the pause was supposed to last significantly longer. “But we're terrible at standing still.” The boys gathered themselves for a ferocious rendition of “Taking the Fall,” preluded by Adam and Jesse debating whether there was sufficient room in front of their microphone stands – before promptly falling to their knees simultaneously to pummel through the opening chords.

The concert closed with a singalong of “Where Are You Now?” After the set concluded, a fan spoke with Adam to rave about this “new song.” Remnant gently informed him that “Where Are You Now?” was actually one of Southeast Engine's oldest songs, from the self-released 2003 EP One Caught Fire. It was a testament to the enduring quality of the band's work, a moment in the patchwork of a celebratory evening uniting past, present, and a bright future certain to come.

Setlist
Red Lake Shore (w/piano intro)
Cold Front Blues
At Least We Have Each Other
Preparing for the Flood
Malcontent
Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains
New Growth
Black Gold
We Have You Surrounded
Taking the Fall
From the Roots of the Mountains to Your Holy Temple
Where Are You Now?