Augustines have spent three years projecting stadium-sized passion in pub back-rooms.
The 1400 packed into this Camden music hall could represent a dilution of that intimately epic experience. Singer-songwriter Billy McCarthy, though, whose mother’s fatal overdose, brother’s suicide and own early struggles were his band’s initial fuel, still has the size of spirit to make every gig extraordinary.
From the start, Augustines’ trombone-bolstered sound surges forward against the lyrics’ negative tide. When McCarthy sings, “I’ve got a drunk for a mother and a saint for a brother” during “Juarez”, he marches back and forth to the mic as if on a mission. For “Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)”, he has to gather himself for each step of that walk, head bowed and tears flowing as he sings “bro-therly love!” and his pain is roared back, transmuted, by the crowd.
McCarthy soon pops up, wholly unplugged, serenading us from a balcony. For the final stretch, Augustines unplug again, and sing from the heart of the crowd. The burly McCarthy has bigger, bolder emotions than rock has been used to lately. As crowds grow to match this, Augustines have stayed intimate, and true to themselves.