The Constantines at T.T. the Bear's Place, April 18, 2008
Just shy of midnight, one of the few dozen of us hardcore Constantines disciples at T.T. the Bear’s warns his girlfriend (one of not many women in a nearly full room): “You might not like them. They’re really manly.”
The Cons might never look like the toughest guys in the room — frontman Bryan Webb is a tall, curly-haired Paul Reubens (a/k/a Pee-wee Herman), and guitarist Steve Lambke’s solo project is named Baby Eagle for a reason — but their music is raw and pulverizing, flanks of post-punk guitar skronk anchored by militant rhythms. Their best songs — brooding, dignified, and urgent monoliths of working-class angst — bemoan the daily struggles everyone likes to associate with Springsteen these days.
Toss in a little Ian McKaye and you’re just about there: it’s arena rock for latter-day punks, a church of fiery devotion (albeit one that could’ve used a set list with a bit more momentum). We pump our fists along with them because, for once, it doesn’t feel cheesy. We labor through the muddy vocal mix, and Webb’s scant audible howls (“We got hard feelings, WORKING FULL-TIME!”) are a combative soundtrack to the recession.
We tolerate the few songs Lambke sings, because “Shower of Stones” surrounds his whiny voice with a torrent of swirling fuzz and surging kick drum. We wonder what the deal is when Webb nonchalantly removes his red dress shirt to reveal a pink, skin-tight girl’s T that he yanks down to hide his love handles.
Our resolve sobers when the set ends with a few slower, shambling numbers from the new — and excellent — Kensington Heights (Arts & Crafts). We sway when we’d prefer to shout; we idly wonder where the girls that were standing next to us went.
Afterward, it’s agreed that we’ve all seen or conceived of better Cons sets, but to pull a line from “Do What You Can Do” (the final song on Kensington Heights), “You do what you can/With what you’ve got.” If that means a serviceably rocking hour-long bro-down, we’ll take it.
: Live Reviews
, Bryan Webb, Ian McKaye, Paul Reubens