The songwriter Jason Molina keeps cranking out new songs at a prolific pace, and an alarming number of them are very good. One side of his music is the bare-bones sound of his solo recordings. And then there’s the fuller sound of Molina backed by Magnolia Electric Co., which especially comes across in the band’s live shows. Crazy Horse comparisons are standard-issue, and Molina also gets inspiration from Bob Seger. Whenever Molina takes a guitar solo, he mostly confines his fingers to the lower strings, playing bass-like figures in the middle of the sonic range. Molina and his excellent band rarely play more than an hour; this show clocked in just slightly longer than that, and there was no encore, even though a few of the more enthusiastic fans up-front obviously wanted one. Hearing “Riding With the Ghost” once again confirmed my feelings that it’s a terrific song, though even the most powerful live version is somewhat lacking without those haunting female vocals on the studio version.
The first opening act of the night, Chicago’s Arriver, plays pretty straight-ahead heavy metal with a touch of prog-rock ambition. It’s not exactly my favorite kind of music, but Arriver has a fun time with it. (CLICK HERE FOR SOME PHOTOS I SHOT AT AN EARLIER ARRIVER CONCERT.) The second band, Fog… well, I’m not sure what to make of them. There were moments, particularly some of the guitar solos that got my attention, but I had trouble pinning down exactly what sort of music they were playing. Not that that’s a bad thing.