On the last song of its sold-out Bowery Ballroom set on Friday, Blind Pilot unplugged its instruments, jumped into the crowd, and just played. The song was the title track from the band’s debut album, 3 Rounds And A Sound. Singer Israel Nebeker’s soft voice carried throughout the dead-silent venue, accompanied by guitar, banjo and the slightest of snare drums. It was a breathtaking experience, made more so by the fact that the entire audience was transfixed by these six individuals. Before starting the tune, Nebeker asked everyone to put down their phones and cameras and to “film with [their] eyes.” Obediently, no one saw the performance through an iPhone screen.
The previous hour and a half was filled with more conventional moments of exhilaration, as the band played tunes evenly split between its debut and recent follow-up, We Are The Tide. “Keep You Right” led off the evening with a familiar vibe for those who hadn’t invested too much time in the new album; its quiet nature and harmonizing recalls the debut album, but it’s also a fuller track than anything the band did on its first record. A few songs later, Blind Pilot went into a trifecta of old songs, with the gorgeous “Oviedo” shining as the highlight. The other two tracks, “Two Towns From Me” and “Things I Cannot Recall” kept the singalong going.
We Are The Tide‘s tracks provided some of the night’s better thrills, because what’s better than the unfamiliar? “White Apple” featured multi-instrumentalist Kati Claborn on dulcimer, solemnly strumming away this heartbreaker of a song. Also standing out was the appropriately named “New York,” which Nebeker said was written while staying in Brooklyn with a friend who owned a harmonium, an instrument that works as the main tool for the long and woozy track. It’s the most “out there” song that Blind Pilot has ever released, sounding more melancholy than even the saddest song in its catalog. Thankfully, the title track from the new album brought the audience back up, as its pounding drums resembled a dance class more than a late NYC night.
The encore featured the night’s most welcome curveball, as the group covered the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Seemingly, in the band’s wheelhouse this southern anthem was surprisingly well-received by the New York crowd, including some very enthusiastic dancers next to the stage. The set then wrapped up with the aforementioned “3 Rounds And A Sound,” after which the band jumped back on stage, took a humble bow, and exited out. The audience then filed out into the cool November night, lacking not in the warmth of Blind Pilot’s music.