By Zach McCormick
Pittsburgh’s South Side was oddly quiet for a Friday night in May. But despite having rained most of the day, Club Café was packed to the gills for Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, a hotly anticipated show that’d sold out weeks prior.
Early on, Shook appeared on the stage to announce that the opening band had to cancel due to a COVID case. Instead, they’d be doing a solo set. Shook jokingly warned that they might botch the mostly new songs, but it sounded to me like she nailed them.
That opening set was full of heart and lung power, but that didn’t deplete Shook’s energy when the full band took the stage and immediately tore into “Good as Gold.” The crowd erupted and showed appreciation by chanting along.
Immediately apparent was the extra layer of punk grit that Shook’s songs exude when played live. This remained true even through the more old-school, heartbreaking, honkytonk tunes.
The Disarmers have been on the road almost non-stop since Nightroamer (Thirty Tigers) was released in February, and it shows in all the best ways. The band’s chemistry was on full display as they watched each other play, anticipating one another’s next move.
The set included everything we wanted and expected to hear. Classics like “Fuck Up” mixed well with newer tunes like “Talkin’ to Myself,” and you could really feel the crowd’s quieter enthusiasm during a few of the sadder songs. “Dwight Yoakam” was particularly hard hitting. Shook’s delivery is such that you never question their sincerity: they have definitely lived these songs.
They ended the night with “New Ways to Fail,” which seemed like exactly what the crowd needed. For several folks I spoke with, this was their first show (or one of their first shows) since pre-pandemic times. Especially for those people, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers provided a much needed release of fiery energy at their Pittsburgh gig.