The Waterboys, Sleigh Bells
THE WATERBOYS, FREDDIE STEVENSON
In an era of big music, big hair, big everything, the Waterboys were truly momentous. From 1983 to 1988, bandleader Mike Scott brought a wall-of-sound approach to electric folk balladry. If Lou Reed studied up on Celtic mysticism, and then tried to make a record that sounded like Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, the finished product might come close to replicating the Waterboys, whose early work forges a balance between being massive and graceful. Scott's lyrics often recall an ancient and verdant past, with the instrumentation emulating his favorite imagery. A serenade about early English paganism can become ritualistic and enchanting, and a love song will surge with the passion of an overflowing river meeting the sea. In the years since the original band dissolved, Scott has occasionally taken up the Waterboys mantle, and his most recent album contains lyrics composed entirely from the poetry of William Butler Yeats. But as a somewhat new Waterboys fan who is still obsessed with their first few albums, I find myself singing along to one song in particular: It begins, "I have heard the big music, and I'll never be the same." Neptune Theatre, 9 pm, $35.
SLEIGH BELLS, DOLDRUMS
Sleigh Bells have always been a mercurial band for me. When Alexis Krauss's buoyant and gauzy vocals combine with Derek Miller's blown-out, tommy-gun-style guitar playing, it's a hard-charging match made in heaven. But for every irresistibly catchy song they have, there is another one that features Krauss petulantly shouting her lyrics or Miller jumping headfirst into goofball metal-shredding territory. Sometimes I feel like I'd have trouble telling certain Sleigh Bells songs apart from the horrendous musical crimes on Punk Goes Crunk. Take their album from last year, Reign of Terror, which opens with "live" audience chatter that sounds about as authentic as what you'll hear on a level of Guitar Hero, before Krauss eventually yells, "I wanna see all your fucking hands in the air!" while Miller engages in some macho riff posturing. Even though it sounds ridiculous and canned when it's coming out of your phone or laptop, it isn't going to be at all out of place in an actual live setting. Sleigh Bells are breakneck rockers, best experienced in person. Expect a lot of material from their newly released record, Bitter Rivals, at tonight's show. Showbox at the Market, 9 pm, $24 adv/$26 DOS.