When a band that you love and have seen grow since the beginning decide to call it quits, it is almost as if you are witnessing a divorce from your favorite couple. It conquers up certain feelings and thoughts and the question “why are you doing this?” is the only thing in mind. Long Island band As Tall As Lions, who have made a name for themselves over the past eight years, are saying goodbye to their fans and friends after releasing three records and two E.P.’s. The band made their final bows last night to a sold out crowd at New York City’s Highline Ballroom, the final stop after a mini-farewell tour that started in LA and ended in the band’s backyard of New York City. As Tall As Lions are a band that I have seen evolve through the years, interviewed and met various times and have seen more times than one can imagine. They were a stellar band that mixed jazz, funk, rock, soul and ambient noise and fused it to perfection, think Bitches Brew – era Miles Davis recording with Radiohead but Jeff Buckley is on vocals instead of Thom Yorke, pretty wild and eclectic mix of sound. While most band’s that come from Long Island attempt to be the next Billy Joel or play a various style of the fading “screamo” sub-genre, As Tall As Lions stood above and beyond the band’s from their native island. In fact, they have been the best band to ever hail from Long Island and their live shows, records and work ethic proved that. Last night at Highline Ballroom, it was the perfect icing on the cake to display that they will hold that title for quite sometime.
Opening with the bombastic “Circles,” the lead track from what would be their last record, 2009’s You Can’t Take It With You, the pounding drums and rhythms set the tone and style as to what would come. Hardly speaking to the audience for the first hour of the gig, As Tall As Lions just let the music do the talking and crammed as much in for their near two hour set. Singer Daniel Nigro never sounded better, while bassist Julio Tavarez was just a monster full of soul and grooves on his bass while drummer Cliff Sarcona played his heart out on his kit, guitarist Saen Fitzgerald showed off that he is on the same level as those like Johnny Greenwood and Bernard Sumner for turning his axe into an effects machine. With the Lions two long time backing musicians Rob Parr and Duncan Tootill, the six men on stage we playing such beautiful music that the crowd would just loose themselves in the sound. With highlights that included “Milk and Honey,” “Stab City,” “Ghost of York,” “Sixes and Sevens,” “Maybe I’m Just Tired,” and the soft and beautiful “Duermete,” As Tall As Lions just seemed unstoppable and the gig felt less like a farewell but just a regular show, in fact each December the band has played a homecoming holiday gig and this seemed more like that.
As the first set ended and they arrived back for their first encore, the idea that this was just a regular gig quickly vanished as Nigro and Tavarez just thanked the crowd profusely for their support through the years. “This is all because of you, thank you, without you we would probably be bums or something, so thank you for this,” Tavarez said to the audience and it was then and there that the reality was setting in, this is going to be the last time they will see them. Yet, in typical Lions fashion, they could not go out quietly and broke into an old number from their 2004 debut, Lafcadio and a song that is hardly played live, the electric “Break Blossom.” After their small encore the band retreated to the wings but the audience would not take that as an ending, after a short wait, the Lions came back one final time to perform “Love Love Love (Love, Love),” a song that gained them much attention in 2006 and landed them on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2007. As the ballad came to a close, that was it, the case was closed on As Tall As Lions, the band took their final bows to thunderous applause and acclaim and leave behind a legacy unmatched for where they come from.
While Dan Nigro, who has just moved to California, has already started his new musical project – Blocks and the remaining members of ATAL including Parr and Toothill have formed the experimental instrumental outfit – Kilamanjaro, they have shown that they will have a long and successful musical career in front of them. Should they decide to ever play again, we as their fans will be there, yet until that moment, all we can do is remember and thank them for some of the most beautiful and touching music we will ever come to hear.