There's nothing more depressing than the sight of a band murdering its own music. I went to see Rilo Kiley at Richard's on Richards the night before last. They played a reasonable if slightly short set, and most of it was fine, if not remarkable. However, the last two songs really ruined it. The final song of the main set was Does He Love You?, one of my favourite songs off the most recent album, and the most complex song they tried all night (in retrospect it's probably significant that they played almost all uncomplicated, upbeat songs and hardly tried any of their more sophisticated stuff), and they killed it. They started out far too fast and then never quite nailed a tempo throughout the whole song, there was almost nothing in the way of chemistry between the players, and every single performance was sloppy. Now it's always difficult to play even a slightly complex song live perfectly, but then you don't have to. There's an art to giving a good impression of a complex song in a live setting - Radiohead have it in spades - and this band surely doesn't know it, or at least they didn't that night. It felt like they were trying to play the whole thing, and a) failing to manage it as well as b) completely missing the overall 'shape' of the song by trying too hard to get every individual bit right. It was just a mess.
They then committed two cardinal sins of live performance; they finished with a completely unnecessary, momentum-killing improv jam, and then they milked the encore break. The crowd mostly shared my opinion of the show, it seemed, and weren't really too desperate for an encore, but we stood around clapping lightly for form's sake. They milked this for a good five minutes. I've seen huge bands get rapturous receptions and come out after much less. Finally, they came back out as everyone was about to lose interest, and for their single encore song, they played...a novelty cover on the ukulele. Seriously. There's showmanship for you. Sigh. What a shame.