There are two types of bands in this world: Ones that sound better on their albums, and ones that sound better live.
After their grand performance at the Fall 2015 installment of Boston Calling, we knew that Bully fell into the latter category, but last night (November 12) in the confines of Allston’s Great Scott, the Nashville band quashed any lingering doubts about the matter.
Bully set forth their raw, visceral LP Losing into the world less than a month ago, and they’re still reaping the benefits of the inevitable, equal but opposite reaction: A veritable fuckton of winning.
Despite the album’s roots in the themes of loss, post-breakup numbness and mania, the collection of 12 tracks ultimately present a triumph; the feat of articulating any of that mournful nonsense with a serious sense of alt-rock rhythm. Translated into a live performance, however, lead singer Alicia Bognanno could hardly wipe the smirk from her face, regardless of the subject matter.
“For you to remember the one time I fucked up/I fucked up/Why does it always spiral like this?” she wailed, lips curling into a smile on botched relationship tune “Spiral.”
Even when unearthing the more unsightly remnants of their 2015 record Feels Like, she harnessed more primal energy than would appear possible to fit in her five-foot-something frame, singing with the rock-ready rasp of a serial smoker. “I question everything/My focus, my figure, my sexuality/And how much it matters or why it would mean anything/I can’t keep it together/I’ve been better,” she professed on “Trying,” reliving the confusion she may or may not have since sorted out.
There are three components to a typical Bully show: 1) Bognanno’s better-than-autotune-could-ever-be vocals, paired with the added punch of her scrunched up facial expressions and coos from behind a mop of blonde hair, 2) post-show aches and pains from perfect form headbanging for both guests and band members, and 3) a soft serve ice cream lamp, purpose unknown, signaling their current Losing era.
Along the way, the group dropped nuggets of wisdom with each piece of their set, ranging from “it kills to be resistant” from Losing‘s second track, to “you can’t a write a book about what you don’t know,” a zinger from “Trash.”
But here’s a new tidbit — if a venue is small enough, you can coerce a band into playing an encore.
“We didn’t have anywhere to go, so we’re going to do two more,” Bognanno announced after crawling back out of the meager band-gear corner of Great Scott to play “Running” and “I Remember.”
“Tomorrow we’re going to New York and it’ll be very busy… so today is special because it’s not,” Bognanno said before trailing off. If that’s a compliment, we’ll take it.