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Story and photos by Matt SchwenkeSparsely lit and peering out from under the shadow of a baseball cap, M. Ward's performance seemed to be headed toward a sedate evening similar to his last stop at the Pabst in 2006, just after releasing Post War. And a good chunk of the set list this time through would follow suit as Ward hasn't released another solo album since, but after a host of collaborations and projects between tour stops, a new M. may be emerging.
While "Chinese Translation," "Poison Cup," "Requiem," and "Rollercoaster," all from Post War, featured some refined guitar work and received well-deserved applause, it was M. Ward's delivery of older material that particularly stood out. With his band joining him and a host of fans dancing and standing in the pit in front of the stage (it was a sit down show last time), M. Ward eventually tossed his cap aside and delivered impassioned takes on "Vincent O'Brien," from Transfiguration of Vincent (2003), "Flaming Heart," from End of Amnesia (2001), and "Big Boat," from Transistor Radio (2005), in which M. pounded away on the piano.
Remaining intense but much quieter behind the keys, Ward began his take on Daniel Johnston's "Story of an Artist" so softly he was distracted by a fan's untimely applause and stopped mid-lyric to let the verse come back around again before delivering the whimsical, self-reflecting tale in its entirety (Ward covered Johnston's "To Go Home" last time). Known mostly as a soft-spoken singer/songwriter, M. Ward and company turned it up another notch late in the night with the rocking "Regeneration," so much so it seemed another band had taken the stage.
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