Are Constantines actually the greatest live band in the world? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that I can't think of a band that has consistently blown me away as much and as frequent as they have, nor any band that I would rather see.
They aren't flashy. They won't pull out rock star moves. There won't be any wicked guitar solos, mind-melting moments, or, for that matter, any specific things you'll be able to point at tomorrow when you're telling your friends you saw the best show you've ever seen. No, through the sheer power of rock and roll, by way of blood, sweat, and tears, Constantines will single handedly destroy whatever notion you may have of rock and roll in your head.
I've had religious experiences at their shows. I've had moments where I've sworn I held the world's answers in the palm of my hand. I've confessed my sins and been atoned. Maybe it's their perfectly calculated, Minutemen-esque efficiency; the fact that with every line he forces out, singer Bry Webb looks and sounds like he's exorcising every one of his demons; or the fact that, with broken hands, broken souls, or broken instruments, these dudes will not phone it in, not give up, or not give anything less then their all.
This is blue collar rock. Before the Hold Steady heralded the triumphant return of Rock, Constantines did so, just more subtly. The Hold Steady are literate, nerdy rockers for those of us who see ourselves in them. Constantines, on the other hand, are the people The Hold Steady (and, you know, Springsteen) sing about. These are the dudes working in the mill until their bones ache, drinking cheap beer night after night, looking for that escape.
I hate to get all personal and, ugh, spiritual, about this, but I really feel like Constantines are that good live. They won't win everyone over, by a long shot, but for those who they manage to strike a chord with, tonight is easily going to be one of the epic high points of this year.