People know what to expect at a homecoming. To that point, it wasn't particularly surprising to see a conglomerate of friends, family and colleagues of Eric Earley and co. taking their seats at Revolution Hall on Nov. 28. They were there to celebrate the release of All Across This Land, the local outfit's latest release and one that serves—for better or worse—as a fist-pumping testament to the enduring strength of classic rock.
Album opener "Rock and Roll (Was Made for You)" set the tone for the remainder of the night, however conventional and direct it might have been. Red, white and blue lighting draped the band as it began a nearly two-hour set, lending songs like "Nights Were Made for Love" an even bigger Springsteen vibe than the lyric's barrage of small-town tropes and Earley's leather jacket initially let on. "Fire & Fast Bullets," with its Pavement-style fits and freakouts, showcased the group's early versatility, while new cuts such as the slow-building "Love Grow Cold" and "Cadillac Road" cranked the synthesizers to 11—and were accompanied by the occasional power stance).
Yet the new material was only part of it. The Portland stalwart now has a total of eight albums under its belt, much of it consisting of beefy Americana that treads water somewhere between Tom Petty and the Band, with Deadhead jams and Southern riffage filling the loose space in between. "I wrote this next one in a public restroom in Albany," said Earley before launching into "Texaco," a song dripping with lush piano embellishments from the band's 2003 debut. The three-part harmonies and lap steel twang of "Fletcher" followed shortly afterward.
Harmonica-laden tracks from the group's seminal album, Furr, quickly reminded some audience members of why they started listening to the band in the first place. Their band's poignant narratives—of football games, wolf packs, mill towns and the vastness of the open road—also gave the band plenty to draw from when they weren't rehashing the work of Townes Van Zandt and classic Beatles cuts such as "Come Together" with a bigger, harder rock edge than Lennon ever intended.
The encore was as on-point as the aforementioned covers, except this time, the band members crowded around a sole microphone and sang in unison, Earley's weathered vocals and acoustic fingerpicking anchoring more traditionally styled folk songs.
"I've never done anything like that before," Earley chimed in amid the handclaps and hometown applause following the closing numbers. "Just for Portland." BRANDON WIDDER.