“We hope you like our new direction!” said Balancing Act bass player Steve Wagner in a mock-Liverpudlian accent, indulging in a little early Beatlesque banter between encores Wednesday night. “Tomorrow there’s gonna be an article in the paper: ‘Folk Band the Balancing Act Played at the Roxy,’ ” predicted singer Jeff Davis with a twinge of sarcasm.
Sorry, boys, but we’re not that slow. Even if many of the songs were still mostly acoustic, this incarnation of the Balancing Act was very much a rock band, and--if the article in the paper must say so itself--a better one for the change.
The most obvious difference between the old songs from the L.A. band’s first two records and some of the tunes from the new album, “Curtains,” is that stand-up drummer Robert Blackmon hits his snare drum a lot more than the tom-toms (even offering some good old straight-up rock syncopation), and that Willie Aron often trades in one of the band’s two acoustic guitars for an electric one (even offering some good old straight-up rock dissonance--echoed in a guest turn from ex-Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, who produced the new album).
The difference is subtly apparent in attitude as well. In its nouveau-folk origins phase, the Balancing Act--while crafting its fair share of smart and funny songs--somehow seemed all too self-conscious of its bohemian existential whimsy. Now that these boys are “rocking out” (as much as they’re ever likely to rock out), there’s a bit more of a pop classicist sense without too much sacrifice of the group’s inarguable originality.
Also on the bill were long-time local favorite Victoria Williams and relative newcomer Milo Binder. The latter is one of the more entertaining of the new folkies around town (no change of direction for him yet), whose witty confessional “Coffeeshop Women” ought to be a hit for some demented country singer.