I first heard of Elephant Revival when I met Bridget Law at a fiddle contest five years ago. She had a magnetic personality and played the fiddle with the best of them, so I made sure to look up her band when I got home. The first Elephant song I listened to was "Ring Around the Moon", and it was stuck in my head for days. Since then I have seen them play many times. After hearing them Saturday night at the Boulder Theater I am convinced they can only skyrocket up from here. Their already amazing musicality is still growing, and so is their fan base.
The line from the Boulder theater box office stretched out the door and into the street, and when the theater announced the show was sold out there were a lot of disappointed faces. I would be too, seeing Elephant is like experiencing all the beauty and spirituality of a Catholic mass (think Ave Maria performed inside a huge stained glass cathederal). Except you can't dance and drink beer inside a cathederal, and no one thinks of their priest the way fans think of this very attractive quintet.
There was a giant statue of a crow on stage, I still don't completely understand why. The Steep Canyon Rangers opened up the night, arranging themselves around the enormous bird to play foot stompin’ originals like "Lovin' Pretty Women" and "Turn Up the Bottle". At some point in the show the lights turned blue as these gentlemen put down their instruments and sang in five part harmony. This was the most memorable part of their set, and their ability to sing together tightly and with a strong, solid tone would give Elephant a run for their money.
The Revival started off the concert with an a-capella piece led by Bonnie, a sort of tribute to the giant crow. As the night went on I noticed they had picked out a set list of many less-played songs, while skipping over crowed favorites like "Sing to the Mountain", "Go On", and "Point of You". Still, everything they played was inspiring. "Spinning" brought me to tears; at times their concerts feel like you were just riding through the woods, lucky enough to cross paths with gypsie travelers around a camp fire.
On a side note- I don't think I have ever seen those girls wear the same outfit on stage twice, Is someone just sending them a new country dress every week? Like a country dress of the week club? Or are they being sponsored by someone, some kind of sexy Laura Ingalls perhaps? They always look absolutely beautiful and I want in on the secret. Oh, and the guys looked good too. They just don't dress up as much. They were, however, wearing some really cool custom-made bird masks.
Oh, right, back to the concert. The night seemed to be more fiddle-heavy than I have seen in the past. Mrs. Law sewed everything together and was playing boldly. In the past I have noticed her playing long, single notes in the background while Bonnie sings her heart out all night or another band member leads the ring. But Saturday night was quite fiddle heavy and that is never a bad thing. I think she probably had to get her bow re-haired the next day, it was almost sawed in half by the end of the night. Maybe she is sent new bows along with new country dresses every week.
So Elephant has always been unique, amazing, awe-striking. What was surprising about tonight was how they have grown as a band (that was never mediocre to begin with). The ability of the group to highlight the best ideas and sounds from each individual is getting even better. I could see and hear them listening to each other, with crescendos and de-crescendos like a school of fish changing directions on the snap-tap-tap of the wash board. Though each one of them is an outstanding musician in their own right, you may not hear each individual’s virtuosity but a few times during the show. No one is trying to be the star; they instead shine together. Hell, I have been listening for years and only heard Bonnie belt with the power of Etta James over this past summer.
Bonnie sang the soulful "Rouge River" to a minimal percussion background while the crowed clapped along to the bluesy lyrics:
full of grace
watch these children
in my place"
They played what seemed to be a really long version of "Cosmic Pulse". Still amazing.
Elephant went semi-tradition with a few tunes, but still put their own twist on "Sweet Dreams" and "Angeline the Baker."
The quintet left the stage, but was cheered back on with a relentless encore. They played "Ring Around the Moon", that very first song I ever heard from them. It calmed the crowed, but not for long. Steep Canyon Rangers hoped back on stage for the final encore as all ten musicians jammed on "Gonna Dig a Hole in the Ground".
Elephant Revival is really like nothing else out there right now. I can't decide if I should keep telling people about how great they are or give them aweful reviews so their shows don't get ridiculously crowded. I'm gonna go ahead and say that if you get a chance to see them in an intimate concert setting, do it now! Lets enjoy this Colorado grown band while we can, because they are so great and are going to go so far!