Review: Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace, Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull strip down for 97X Green Room show at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater
Rock station 97X frequently puts on free concerts, yet their second acoustic showcase Green Room: One Night Only featured an even bigger hook — a Florida performance by one of the state’s best musicians.
Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull headlined, but the real draw was Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace in her first local appearance since coming out as transgender in 2012. And despite her second billing, Grace performed a career-spanning set Saturday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall comparable to her headlining solo shows she’s been playing nationally.
There were acoustic renditions of the hits one would expect to hear at a 97X show, such as Thrash Unreal and I Was a Teenage Anarchist. But she also made time for How Low and Joy off of Searching for a Former Clarity and a slowed-down version of the frenetic You Look Like I Need a Drink from As the Eternal Cowboy.
And she went all the way back to 2002’s Reinventing Axl Rose with Walking Is Still Honest (“this is a song I wrote in a past life,” Grace said) and Pints of Guinness Make You Strong (the only song played from Against Me!’s actual The Acoustic EP.)
About half of her setlist was new songs, however. Grace played both tracks off the new True Trans EP, F---MyLife666 and True Trans Soul Rebel, which thoughtfully detail her transgender identity.
She also performed several songs likely to appear on Against Me!’s upcoming Transgender Dysphoria Blues such as Two Coffins and the provocatively titled Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ. As someone who ranks the ramshackle folk-punk of Reinventing Axl Rose among their all-time favorite records but didn’t care much for the radio rock sheen of New Wave or White Crosses, the songs sounded like a nice compromise between the two — at least in this pared-down form.
It was the kind of sprawling setlist you’d want from someone who hasn’t visited lately. Grace even did a great cover of Rowland Howard’s Shivers that likely sent at least few young punks on a Google search when they got home.
Andy Hull diverged from the show’s solo acoustic setup a bit, bringing along Manchester Orchestra guitarist Robert McDowell and playing electric. And though they made the most noise of anyone playing, it was still stripped-down compared to their usual dense instrumentation.
The duo played tracks like Deer and Mighty off last year’s Simple Math and The Only One and I’ve Got Friends off 2009’s Mean Everything to Nothing. And the chemistry between the bandmates was evident throughout, with Hull noting McDowell had recently married his younger sister (“When you want to marry the guy your sister’s married to, you know you’ve got it good.”)
Also playing was Authority Zero’s Jason DeVore, wearing a Matthew McConaughey-esque outfit of a sleeveless shirt, shorts and bare feet while playing both solo songs and a rendition of One More Minute.
And opening was St. Pete singer-songwriter Geri X, who nervously admitted being “starstruck as s---“ but delivered a lovely set of introspective indie-folk.
It was a pretty noteworthy night for a free acoustic show — and one that raised the possibility that 97X’s Green Room might one day become as prominent as their Next Big Thing or Backyard BBQ.
— Jimmy Geurts, tbt*