Three years ago Tampa’s Tallhart
(called Marksmen at the time) opened for California pop-rock outfit Rooney. The first of three opening acts at Ybor’s Crowbar
, their set was a short and straightforward one.
On Saturday, Aug. 10, Tallhart returned to the Crowbar stage — this time, headlining and celebrating the release of their second full-length record, We are the Same
. The crowd trickled in as openers Lions After Dark (Sarasota), Makari (Tampa) and Goodnight Neverland (St. Petersburg) delivered warm-up sets that were, respectively, theatrical, energetic and emotional.
The venue neared capacity by around 11 p.m. when Tallhart took the stage, opening with the first track off the new record, “Our Bodies.” A fully-bearded Matt Segallos let the crowd fans know they’d be playing old stuff and new stuff before the band picked back up with “Fever (Sister of Mine).” Originally recorded on Sister of Mine
and revisited on the Bloodlines
EP, the song hit harder live, heavier and more satisfying than either recorded version. Christopher Brickman’s guitar drove the song as Segallos’ vocals transitioned from graceful and refined to urgent and screeching as he repeatedly belted, “You have to survive.”
The pace slowed down with “No Sound for You,” another earlier track and an easy sing-a-long. After telling the crowd they sounded like “a choir of angels,” Segallos reminisced on the days when only Tampa Bay fans knew their lyrics.
As midnight approached, a group of people standing near the bar grew rambunctious (read: drunk) and made new tracks “Ring a Reason” and “High Speed” hard to enjoy (for me, at least). But things simmered down just in time for the standout of the night, “Wolves,” played with far more intensity and emotion than the recorded version. Building tension with his dynamic vocals, Segallos crooned softly throughout the song before unleashing everything he had into the repeating verse, “Keep my hands in the dark.” After the climax, he held up a finger to hush the crowd and let them pick up the refrain on their own as he slowly plucked his guitar.
In between the next few songs, audience members begged bassist Glenn Espinoza to take his shirt off — an apparent ritual at Tallhart’s Crowbar shows (I can tell you it’s gone on for at least three years). Commenting on the recurring request, Segallos asked his bandmate, “Is tonight the night?” Espinoza faked us out for a second but — to everyone’s obvious disappointment — remained fully clothed.
Touring drummer Cannon Hearne, who laid down keys on the new record (former As Cities Burn member Aaaron Lunsford recorded drums), stood out during “Fighter” and We Are the Same’s title track with powerful, driving backbeats.
When the crowd requested 10 more songs, Segallos retorted, “Daddy doesn’t have 10 more.” He continued on about what it’s like coming home after tour hoping local fans haven’t moved on. If the packed venue didn’t affirm the loyalty of Tallhart’s hometown following, the crowd’s overwhelming vocal assistance during show closer “Holy War” surely did.
After taking their bows, Tallhart was gone for no more than 20 seconds before returning to stage with “Drunk Kids,” treating fans to one last clap-and-sing-along. The musicians were all smiles at that point and towards the end, as the audience carried the chorus all on its own, a giddy Brickman traded in his guitar for a cell phone and recorded the scene from the stage.
Tallhart has evolved much in the last few years and their Crowbar performance was a reminder that they’re capable of playing with a higher degree of intensity and power than their recordings let on. It makes you wonder why their raw edge is sometimes lost in the studio when it’s so natural and prominent on stage. On the other hand, a good live show should
feel like a more passionate and intimate experience than a computer or iPod, and that’s exactly Tallhart provided.