I pulled into my parking spot across from the Cain's on July 24th to see a line already beginning to form out the door and down the street. The doors wouldn't be opening til 7:30 pm but by 6:30 the anticipation for the show was already growing. People were willingly standing out in the hot Oklahoma evening sun just to be the first ones through the door and get their chance to find the best spots near the front of the stage for the night's acts. I, however, knew I'd be waiting on a call from Charming Liars' tour manager for my entry and opted to grab a few drinks inside with AC.
Once I got that call, I quickly made my way back out to meet the tour manager. Jon swiftly got me my press pass and we were on our way. My excitement grew as I stepped into Cain's, through the back curtains to back stage and then off to the green room. I was ushered in and introduced to Kiliyan Maguire, the lead singer of Charming Liars. Kiliyan is just as nice a guy as you will ever meet. A very personable, laid back, humble individual. It can be somewhat intimidating meeting the frontman from a band that have made their way around the world, especially when you're so used to interviewing your local musicians whom you already have a personal friendship with. But Kiliyan was a pleasure to sit down with.
Kiliyan and I talked about all kinds of topics during our time together (see audio clip below for full interview). The first thing we discussed that this was Charming Liars first time to get to visit Tulsa to play a show. And they felt honored to be able to play Cain's Ballroom in their debut here. As Kiliyan put it, "it was pretty fantastic when we first walked in and I was seeing all the pictures on the walls and I was really blown
We also got to talk about some of their past hits like the songs "Soul" and their cover of Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" (see link below article for Charming Liars Youtube channel to watch all their videos). One song I really wanted to hit on was their recently released "Like A Drug". This song's video takes a hard look at substance abuse, which has been historically glorified in rock music's past. When asked why they would make a video like the one they produced, Kiliyan told me "We kinda just wanted to show the other side of the coin". They didn't want to show the glamorization of drug use we so often witness in videos but instead of "just showing what happens up until 2 am, we want to show what happens after". And it's truly refreshing seeing a band who will take a stance against the grain on this in their music. To hear the other topics we discuss too, including the recording sessions they got do in a studio inside a soccer stadium in Brazil, listen to the full interview.
When Charming Liars took the stage later, it's glaringly obvious why they get to open for acts like Weezer, Kings of Leon and Jack White. They are absolutely electrifying on stage. There aren't too many acts out there anymore who can produce a product on stage that sounds nearly identical or, in a few cases that night, better than when it was done in a recording studio. But Charming Liars did just that.
Kiliyan Maguire's vocals were nothing short of perfect and his impressive range was on display throughout the set. You could tell he was putting his heart and soul into the performance, especially during their song "Soul". Karnig Manoukian is the sole guitarist of the band and made his versatility as a capable rhythm and lead guitarist known. And with the unique electronic alternative rock sound Charming Liars have cultivated, it is remarkable to see just how it is done live on guitar. But Karnig made it seem like a breeze as he held down his duties on guitar and lended backing vocals on some songs. Same goes for their bassist Mike Kruger. While throwing in backing vocals of his own, he demonstrated superb skill on the bass. And while some of the songs have uncommon rhythms, this didn't phase him in the least as he kept impeccable timing with the drums.
Besides their musical performance, there are two major factors about Charming Liars that really stood out to me. The first is their stage presence. All of the members interacted with the crowd through the set and made it known to the crowd how excited they were to be there playing for them. And the crowd responded accordingly, not only to their stellar performance but also to the band's personality and panache. The other thing I noticed, and was wondering how they'd pull off during their show, was that they didn't use backing tracks. Many of their songs have intros or certain parts that sound as though they are produced electronically. And although they may be done that way in the recording studio, they are not during the live performance. The drum set is equipped with all kinds of extra pads to make these intros and fills happen real time. This is extremely pleasing as a music fan to see that all the music they produce in studio can be done live without the crutch of backing tracks that some acts use today.
Overall I was very pleased with Charming Liars performance and it was obvious the crowd was as well. I look forward to seeing more of them, both online and live, in the future. They appear to have a bright road ahead of them if they continue to do their live shows and recordings at the superb level of excellence they have so far.