Review: Murder by Death Captivates Fans Old and New at Metro

Murder by Death’s show at Metro on Saturday night featured a lot of fist pumping. Not in the douchey, bro-guy fist pump way, though, but the way you raise your fist when you hear one of your favorite bands playing your favorite whiskey fueled singalongs. Murder by Death’s stop in Chicago at Metro to support their latest album, The Other Shore, was obviously highly anticipated by everyone there, by the amount of fists in the air and people belting out the words. They had good reason to be excited, too, since the classic Wrigleyville venue is the perfect space to see Murder by Death. I’ve seen them at a ton of venues throughout the city, including smaller spaces and big street fests, and Metro is by far the most enjoyable. The lighting is always beautifully staged; the venue itself is a gorgeous piece of Chicago music history; the security team is always friendly and nice; the audience is always full of energetic, diehard fans. Speaking of those fans, Murder by Death has a hugely dedicated fanbase, the type who somehow manage to know every single lyric to an album that came out just over a month prior. This is well deserved, considering they are one of the most consistent indie rock bands to date. They’ve been at it since 2000, and though there has been a host of personnel changes throughout the years, the band always delivers a well-rehearsed set composed of layers of cinematic musicality, with singer/guitarist Adam Turla’s Cash-esque baritone combined with Balliett’s rich, powerful cello. Chicago’s own Mutts opened the show, a 3-piece blues rock and with a genre bridging sound which initially struck me as Tom Waits meets Imagine Dragons. Singer/songwriter and keyboardist Mike Maimone has the growl and grit of Waits but with a more blues rock appeal (think The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age), but with lyrics that delve deep into Maimone’s past, discussing everything from his conservative upbringing to when he came out to his parents at 30. “I’ll Be Around” was a standout song: with slightly less grit than the rest, the song showed the softer side of the band. Murder by Death’s performance featured a mesh of songs from their 8 full length albums, with new songs evenly peppered in throughout old crowd favorites, which, as an older fan who admittedly has only listened to the new album a handful of times, I was grateful for. They started off with “Alas”, the first track off their new album. The song is a breathtaking introduction to the new album, a space western love story about the population fleeing during the end of the world. Balliet’s beautiful cello combined with the starry stage lights gave the song the ethereal, cinematic feel it deserves. The band’s instrumental skills shined in “Lost River”, featuring the sparkling piano introduction by multi-instrumentalist David Fountain, as well as Balliet’s expert pizzicato and bowing skills. The group performed “Stone” live for the first time, with Turla commenting that they had a few requests for it but had never played it live before. The rest of the set featured old singalongs including “Brother”, “A Masters in Reverse Psychology”, and “Until Morale Improves, the Beatings Will Continue”, which, by the end of the show, had everyone in the crowd sharing their affinity for whiskey over water and their love for whiskey sours, all while raising a pint to their brother. Murder by Death’s Saturday show proved that they are still the best whiskey drinking space rock band around, and they aren’t going away any time soon. Be sure to check out their new album, The Other Shore, out now on Bloodshot Records. This concert review was written and photographed by guest author Carissa Coughlin.
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Carissa Coughlin

Carissa Coughlin is a Chicago based photographer and writer, specializing in portraiture, fashion and live performance photography. See more of her work at