Show Review: The Violet Burning at the Balzer Theater (11/1/11)

Catching the Violet Burning in concert is something like capturing a few fireflies in a jar on a dark night: magical, rare, illuminating. The first time I saw them was at a large church and I remember realizing I was onto something special not only because of the music (Michael Pritzl’s beautiful piano rendition of “Silver” hooked me) , but by the fact that fans had driven from states away for the chance to see the beloved band. In the years that have followed, I have caught them in smaller night club venues, coffeehouses, and chapels– All jars of their sort, housing something bright from the night sky for a moment.

My recent venture to hear songs from their latest release, the three disc “Story of Our Lives”, involved a jaunt to the Balzer Theater in downtown Atlanta. Hosted by Bezalel Church, the Violets soared thru at least fifteen tunes on a red curtained stage. A slideshow of the album’s compelling artwork depicting concepts from “Story” ran thruout.

I arrived a little late, breathless from trying to find the joint, and things were already getting rowdy with “Machine beat sabbatha” :

I’m a son of thunder, baby – I’m the son of thunder and rain
We won’t be coming – no, we won’t be running back
We won’t be coming back no more
We’re not your kind – we are not your kind

Thundering indeed were the drums played by the impressive Lenny Beh who doubled as violinist. Daryl Dawson’s steady presence as the bassist with the most is always delightful. Michael’s vocals and intricate guitar work thrill, ranging in mood and octave as unpredictable as the wind, making the “story” showcase a page turner for sure.

Ripping relentlessly through “Rock is Dead” (live is the only way to experience this one), “Imminent Collapse” and “Sung”, the sound transitioned to the moody, thumping “Low”, and personal favorites “As I Am” and “Underwater”(the more I live the less I know) whose drums pounded right into my soul, its guitar gently lapping against your heart’s shoreline. Vibes settled as Michael picked up the acoustic guitar and did a heart rending “Light poured down on me”. The band returned with the beautiful “In ruin” and the insta-classics “Mon Desir” and “Made for You”.

As an encore, Pritzl returned with the standout “Gorgeous” then asked the crowd “Are there any songs you‘d actually like to hear?”. Many were shouted out: the staple “Song of the harlot” the tune that put the band on the map and still moves, the exultant “40 weight” and “Invitacion Fountain“, the more recent and touching “Hmm”(all my life looking for love I can not find, hold me now, I think I’m breaking) . He then quickly composed a montage and one song bled into another. Hearts and voices were lifted in unison, sometimes just the men, sometimes the women, and then together. Many eyes were closed and faces hungry for connection seemed met in that place.

Personally, I walked back to my car that evening with a cup of grace kinda overflowing. I have found in my music listening years, identifying songs with varying emotions and experiences, the ones that mean the most move me to a hopeful place and heal along the way (and involve a little head banging). The Violet Burning does this successfully- each song is a story unto itself, alive; my frozen heart, at least, recovers listening to them.

Catch em when they fly thru your town. Invite them to come.

Check out Holly’s photos in this slideshow

-Holly Etchison; November 14, 2011