Back in December, when I first saw The Autumn Defense at Schubas in Chicago, I reported to you all right here on these pages about how good their show was. My thoughts at the time were that it was their record release party in their hometown and they had a sold out club full of fans who knew them, were friends with them, cheered them and loved them. That kind of crowd always makes for a better show.

So it was with great anticipation about a month ago when I was scanning the music listings here in Boston and I circled the date of Friday, February 13th – The Autumn Defense finally makes their stop in Boston. This would be a more true test in my eyes – put them in a less friendly environment – a city with different, discerning tastes, where they’re a lesser-known entity playing in a smaller club – then let’s see how it works out. I’m here to tell you that what I saw tonight might have been one of the best live rock shows I have ever seen in my life. And I’ve seen a lot of them.

It’s just such a rarity these days that I leave a show with the feeling I had tonight after seeing this band – pure, unadulterated elation. I mean, it was on a completely different level. There are only a few specific instances where I was taken to these kinds of heights in a rock-show setting. One was a single moment during a Son Volt show back in 1997 when the band performed such a drop-dead, perfect version of “Left A Slide” that it resulted in my getting intense goose bumps and – really – I almost wept. No lie – it was right there on the cusp and I remember and very much appreciate that moment like it happened 3 days ago. I have no idea why it was that particular song that caused it, but that’s a feeling you just want to capture and bottle-up for the remainder of your life. You search for such happiness.

The Autumn Defense tonight brought me to those levels again. Not necessarily on the verge of tears, but the feeling that you’re witnessing something at its finest, seeing such perfection being made just ten feet from you really takes you to another place, so much so that I had to come home tonight, sit here right now and type this out at 2:12am (EST) while it was still freshly baked in my head.

Performing a stunning range of songs from weepy, ’70s style AM ballads, to richly textured 7-piece performances featuring two horn players, to the show’s closing number, the gut-ripping, jumping version of Big Star’s “You Can’t Have Me,” The Autumn Defense have set the standard for a live show in this decade. There, I’ve said it. I’m not trying to be “I’ve seen the future of rock-and-roll” Landau-ish here, I’m just calling them as I see them and I cannot stress enough how strongly I suggest you see this band play. I brought my friend Will with me, who had never heard a single note of this band and one of his few comments afterward was “it’s such a cool thing when a band you’ve never heard in your life can totally blow your mind like that.”

Here, here.

As a quick sidenote, if there were such thing as buying stock in musical talent, I would put every last dime of my money into Pat Sansone – and he’s not even the main singer in the band. Where a John Stirratt (singer) is like Jim Thome – he will hit home run after home run, Pat Sansone is Alex Rodriguez. He can do everything and make it look like nothing – piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a voice that you just have to hear in concert to even believe.

My final statement of the evening is the incredulous notion that this band is actually just a side project. That thought really just makes me laugh. A side project. Anyway, here’s a slideshow of some pics from the show tonight. Enjoy. Let me stress again – do whatever you can to see them if they’re in or near your town.