Jessi Zazu is tiny. Just barely five-feet-tall, the Those Darlins frontwoman is dressed casually in white jeans and a matching white, button-down cut-off shirt. Armed with her candy red guitar, Zazu has an air of slightly manic expressiveness, which makes her hard to look away from on the barely lit stage at Great Scott. Within moments of hearing her start in on the rattling riff of “Ain’t Afraid”, off the band’s just-released album, Blur the Line, you're mesmerized by her impassioned singing.
It's doubtful that many bands could lose a founding member (ex-Darlin Kelley Anderson) and bounce back with a record that not only perfectly bridges their signature alt-country style with a good ol' fashioned rock n' roll aesthetic, but is also arguably one of their best to date.
Blur the Line is that album for Those Darlins. At Sunday night’s show, the setlist for which was peppered with tons of new tracks, it was undeniable that this is a band that continues to evolve with each new album. Songs like “She Blows” and their newest single, “Optimist," are rooted in rock basics and, live, are testament to the band’s innate chemistry on stage.
Whether it's Nikki Kvarnes’ slightly psychedelic guitar play or Linwood Regensburg’s never over-powering, but ultimately guiding, drums, Those Darlins’ live performances hold audiences spellbound. Blur the Line is a classic rock record that refuses to grow old with repeated listens; jam-packed with shimmering guitar tangents and luscious harmonies that would be better suited for listening beneath blue summer skies, than the cramped bowels of the Allston rock club. Not that anyone in attendance cared.
Standing with one foot up on the small PA sitting on the stage in front of her, Zazu leans towards the crowd and starts in on an unhinged rendition of “Be Your Bro," as she plucks at her guitar in a sonic frenzy. The night drew to an end with an encore that included a cover of Credence Clearwater’s “Fortunate Son," before which Zazu and Kvarnes both admitted they had just learned the song earlier that day and were in desperate need of some help with the lyrics. Those Darlins might still be learning, but Sunday's show suggests that they've got a long future ahead of them with which to do so.