*This review is dedicated to John Wayne, without whom I would never have realized how amazing Run Kid Run is. If you know him, give him a hug and buy him a Frappucino and a Millencolin CD.*
They never told us exactly where Paul Stewart and Matt Jackson were, or, more to the point, why this location wasn’t behind a bass guitar and drum set (respectively), playing along with them. David Curtis and Neil Endicott simply appeared on a stage, the rain having just ended, seeming to know little more about what was going on than us in the crowd. Fortunately, Reese Roper was there to fill us in. Run Kid Run, the Brave Saint Saturn troubadour informed us, were only going to play two songs. Yeah, it sucked, but that’s what rain does. They would be playing a later (12:15) set at the Mercy St. Cafe, and it was only $5, which went to provide Soulfest 2009 tickets to those who couldn’t afford it. Okay. Cool. In the meantime, RKR played a couple of cuts from This is Who We Are. I won’t tell you what they were or my impressions, for fear that I will reveal far too early that Run Kid Run were probably the best band to play at Soulfest. If I did that, you’d stop reading here, and we can’t have that. This review needs some freaking hits, especially as my Ten Shekel Shirt one got a whopping 0 comments. = (
…Where was I?
After watching full sets by August Burns Red and Kiros and catching a couple songs of Phil Joel and John Reuben (I’m not sure exactly how that happened either), we found ourselves sitting on the floor of the cafe waiting for Run Kid Run. And wait we did. But at sometime closer to, say, 5:30 than the expected 12:15, Dave and Neil took the stage again. They seemed nervous, which is understandable, given both the technical difficulties that plagued their soundcheck and the fact that they were, you know, playing acoustic, which is evidently not something that they did…ever. This was their first acoustic performance outside of a house show. With apprehension, we all waited on the edge of our…floor space…to see how they would pull it off.
They opened with “Rescued Me.” It was stunningly brilliant.
“Wake Up, Get Up” followed. It was amazing too.
Something was obviously going very right here. The crowd was singing most of the words, especially to the latter, Dave’s voice sounded pitch-perfect (as did Neil’s), and the feel was both driving and chilling — a difficult feat to accomplish. The duo launched into first single from their recent sophomore effort Love at the Core, “Captives Come Home.” This song probably translated worst into the acoustic format of the eleven-track set, but it’s such an album highlight that the performance was still superb. Props to Neil Endicott; he proved handle fairly complex guitar parts while simultaneously and masterfully nailing his backup vocals. Lyrics like “Get up and find a way back home…Let’s go and leave behind false sense of hope, where creeping shadows call your name…” rang true in the quiet, late atmosphere. We were hooked.
Now came the moment of truth. Dave informed the crowd that one day he wanted to write about leaving behind all the chains of sin we struggle with in this world and needing God’s help to overcome our faults, and that he sat down at the piano and wrote a very simple melody that became “Freedom.” The band played it acoustic at a house show once and had never played it since. They begged our pardon if it turned out poorly and started to play. It was at this point that I knew Run Kid Run would be without peer at this festival. “Freedom” is beautiful in its own right on record, but hearing Dave plead with his Father for rescue in person, hearing the duo “singing for freedom…praying to the one who can bring [them] freedom…” was an experience indeed surpassed by none and matched only by The Glorious Unseen. More on them later.
And it only got better. “I’ll Forever Sing” is, upon reflection, probably the group’s best song, and it was made even better acoustic. It is, perhaps, the proper time to remark on a rather interesting phenomenon: other than “Freedom,” which is equally good acoustic and on record, I preferred the album version of every song on Love at the Core to its acoustic performance and vice-versa for every song on This is Who We Are. I’m not sure what this says about the band’s writing as a whole, but I know that it was a great introduction to the band’s debut, which I didn’t own at the time. “I’ll Forever Sing” was probably the show’s single greatest highlight, but “The Modern March,” which followed, was equally poignant: “I could never walk alone! All this time I never gave to You…You’re all I have; You’re all I know, and I am calling on You now…”
If I haven’t belabored the point yet, Run Kid Run write some of the best lyrics in today’s pop/rock scene. “Sing to Me,” one of the songs the duo played on the stage earlier, is a beautiful song (made even better in D minor and acoustic) that compares the love of God, the stories of what He’s done for us, and the guidance He imparts to us when He takes control of our lives as a song that rises up inside of us. If it wasn’t a single for the debut, it should have been, combining a gloriously catchy hook with unforgettable and surprisingly deep lyrics (given most of their contemporaries). “Move On” is an equally catchy break-up song, one of the few I had known from the debut. Great cut, especially when sung along at full volume, which I, of course, did, because style and vocal talent don’t matter when it’s 1:15 in the morning and Run Kid Run is rocking your face off with acoustic guitars.
The band jumped back into their sophomore effort with the title cut, “Love at the Core.” I was somewhat surprised the band didn’t play more songs from their recent release, especially as “My Sweet Escape” would have made a beautiful transition to the set at Mercy St., but it’s hard to fault the band — the songs they’d played longer were probably easier to arrange at the last minute, and all the songs they played were great. Fan-favorite “We’ve Only Just Begun” followed, prompting a quick “I wish you guys new all the songs this well” from Dave. This was a challenge to the new RKR fans among us (namely, me), and as Dave and Neil gave one last effort with “One in a Million,” for which, they told us, a video will soon be released, some of us tried to drown out the guys on stage. Before the two could start, Dave broke a string on his acoustic, so Neil’s electric resonated through every crevice of the room while the band and members of the crowd who knew the song joined together as one. It was a brilliant ending.
I spent $29 at the merch table that night. The band earned every penny. Run Kid Run, I’m going to lay it out for you: your CD deserves spots on end of year lists. No question there. And there’s no other way to say it: this show was quite possibly the best I’ve ever seen. If you ever have a week in the studio to spare, I officially beg you for an acoustic album. Just make sure Paul and Matt don’t feel too left out. I’m sure they rock hXc too.