On The List :: These United States @ The Echoplex [7.9.09]

Jesse Elliot, lead singer of These United States, wields an acoustic guitar like I imagine John Dillinger mastered semi-automatic weapons. Elliot addresses the instrument like a weapon, like a suit of armor, like a partner in crime. He points it like a firearm and were it not an acoustic guitar, and instead an object of war, I suspect, we would all be dead.

It is a sparse crowd and the opening band, over shots of whiskey at the bar, already comments "this is the worst show we've ever played." Luckily, The United States don't play for who is in the audience. Elliot approaches the opening song "West Won' with an element of reserve. I use this descriptor carefully. More appropriately, Elliot won't leave the ballpark of frenetic for the next 40-minutes. He sweats through the sleeve of his shirt. People don't do this often and Elliot works like few front men in the business.

Working through a mixture of their last two albums and a record forthcoming, These United States lay low and tight - it would still be fair to say they do their best work when they sit on the front half of alt-country. Playing "First Sight" from their first album, in the middle of the set, Elliot's delivery is sharp and rapid-fire. It's not the band's best song but it's close. Further proof of an evolving art-form comes in the last song of the night.

Elliot says, "we're calling this 'the new sound.'" He doesn't mean the title of the song. It is, in fact, "I Want You To Keep Everything," the first single off the band's forthcoming LP. It's the kind of song that would put Demolition-era Ryan Adams on notice. It is the kind of song that would send Gold-era Ryan Adams running for his life from the neighborhood. In its own way destructive and elevating, "I Want Your To Keep Everything" is the moment you would remember. The guitarist to Elliot's right is thrashing and finally turned loose. The band is in perfect form.

We pass Jesse Elliot on the way out of The Echoplex. "Great set, man." It's a weak entry. He nods and says an earnest "thank you." We are headed opposite directions. We hit the street. He wipes his face and heads for the merch table.

Listen :: These United States - "I Want You To Keep Everything"

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