It’s a three hour haul from Norfolk, VA up to Washington D.C.’s 9:30 club, and while I was quick to load up a playlist of my favorite Dr. Dog tunes to prep for the show, I was vetoed after being informed by my fellow M.O.R. staffer and co-pilot that this was evoking some sort of Rock Faux Pas (I apparently had to take my Dr. Dog T-shirt off as well). Luckily, she was quick with a substitution in the form of Bruce Springsteen keynote speech from this week’s SXSW festival. The speech served as both a cool rock ‘n’ roll history lesson and a compass for the young musicians abound at this year’s festival. He covered a lot of ground, but the focus of his prose was this: ”Young musicians – learn how to bring it live, and then bring it night after night after night. Your audience will remember you. Your ticket is your handshake”
Well, from the looks of things Dr. Dog is working on a pretty firm handshake these days. Maybe they were listening to the same speech we were, or perhaps that’s just how they roll – either way there is no mistaking that Dr. Dog is bringing it in the live show. The entire performance is on point – with a killer new drummer, tight harmonies, precise stops and focused jam sessions these guys are honing their craft with every passing show in a way that would make the Boss proud..
Due largely in part to “handshakes” past at D.C.’s 9:30 club, the show was sold out weeks in advance and an extremely pumped up crowd awaited the start of the show as if it were an encore. For me, it only took one listen to the new album to know that these songs would kill live and taking the long trek north was a no brainer.There is something great about seeing a band early on in their tour for a killer new album – the energy is through the roof, the fans are pumped on the fresh material and new live favorites are being formed. Be The Void tracks were peppered in with the canon of Dr. Dog classics that you would come to expect, and the crowd didn’t miss a beat. The new tunes fit quite nicely against what has come to be some extremely dialed in old material. There was one stretch where they played old fave “The Rabbit and the Bat and the Reindeer” into the new “These Days” that was about as good as it gets for me in a live setting. Void’s opening track “Lonesome” worked great as a singalong since the crowd seemed to instinctively know when and where to join in with an enthusiastic “Hey!” The boys couldn’t have made their love for the new material more apparent, as you could see them singing along to nearly every song even when they were nowhere near a microphone. You can’t fake this stuff, these guys are killing it up there, and they’re having a lot of fun in the process.
It’s worth mentioning that even as an old fan, I was actually bummed I didn’t get to hear a few of the cuts off the new album. I can’t say which tunes from the band’s back catalogue I would have subbed out for “Big Girl” or ” Over Here, Over There,” but It’s a testament to the new album that these tracks were conspicuous by their absence. In the end, having too many songs is a pretty good problem to have. I guess I’ll have to hop back on the road and cross my fingers for the next go round, something tells me it won’t be far away.
Writer/Photographer: Brooks Hays
The Black Cat is always a great venue to see a rock show: dim lighting, exposed industrial ceilings, five-dollar beers, sexy punk bartenders, and a thoroughly tattooed crowd. Last week on July 1st it was particularly hopping. Triangulating the North American continent for the purpose of musical domination, three bands took the stage, each from the triumvirate of indie rock cities: Brooklyn, L.A., and Montreal. Steel Phantoms, a young band from New York, kicked off the party with some hard-hitting New Wave pop-rock. They were a bit sloppy given their relative ripeness, but their lead singer nailed some solid notes somewhere between Julian Casablancas and Jonathan Richman. A sucker for any band that has a drummer-vocalist (in honor of the great Levon Helm), Steel Phantoms were a nice surprise and showed real potential. Next to take the stage was the L.A. duo Active Child. Laptop, harp, bass, and one amazingly high-pitched shrill of a voice combined for some hauntingly good, Church-worthy, orchestral electronica. And then finally Canada’s very own Islands headlined the night to the shrieking delight of way too many front-row-hoggin’, tweeny-boppin’ hipsters with their x’ed hands raised in salute. No matter, ever since I was nearly mobbed to death by thirteen-year-old girls at an Of Montreal show in Atlanta, I’ve gotten accustomed to being surrounded by Converse-totting little ones who make me look like an amateur with their impeccable knowledge of every single song lyric. I just hope my kids don’t start out this hip.
Anyways, I came in to the night fairly unfamiliar with headliners Islands, and left fully impressed. I had read about and heard their music in passing, and decided to give them a try. I was glad I did. They arrived on stage in flamboyant, skin-tight, pseudo-coordinated outfits and proved to be self-indulgent masters of the art of live performance. Islands played a shimmering brand of funked-out, spacey synth-pop, with equal doses of bouncing melodies, psychedelia, and head banging. Front man Nicholas Thorburn (stage name, Nick Diamonds), with a big white guitar from the future at his waist, belts out a mesmerizing voice that can straddle a broad range, bubbling out fun-filled melodies, and hoarding dark secrets. Islands brought out a serious squeal from the crowd when they performed a boisterous version of fan-favorite “Rough Gem” off their debut album. I found Islands most inspiring when Diamonds’ vocals took center stage. Such was the case on a spooky version of “Where There’s A Will, There’s A Whale-Bone.” The opening track from their most recent release Vapours was another crowd-favorite, and one their best songs—Diamonds’ voice recalling a more playful Devendra Barnhart. The majority of the concert’s material came form Vapours and Into the Sea (their sophomore album being almost entirely excluded), with a few new songs sprinkled into the mix. Islands were dance inducing and captivating from all angles: thumping bass, versatile vocals, tropical melodies, and Ghostbusters-theme-song-worthy synths, all topped off with an adequate amount of guitar shredding and hip swerving. I will certainly catch these fellas again next time they make their way through the nation’s capital.
Much has been made of Paul Mccartney’s three sold out concerts at the Mets’ new Citi Field, and their historical significance coming almost 35 years after the Beatles played the Mets’ old home at Shea Stadium. The shows were recorded for future release on DVD, received a great deal of media attention, and piled up the glowing reviews.
Much less however has been made of the next night’s show just outside D.C. at the Washington Redskins Fedex Field(the 4th of 9 sold out shows on this US tour). This show however, is not without a history of its own as Washington, D.C., not New York City was actually the first show The Beatles played on US soil. History or no history, I was at an all time high of anticipation and decided to spring the extra coin for seats in the front section of the field; after all how many chances do you get a chance to see a Beatle up close and personal.
It ended up being just about what I thought it would be, incredible. The original Beatles show in D.C. was 12 songs, lasting about a half hour. The 67 year old Macca bested that by about 25 songs, playing through his ample songbook for better than 3 hours. Throughout the night Macca rotated between his famous Hofner Bass, electric and acoustic guitars, and the piano with great moments at each. The sound was exceptional as the band was flawless, and that world famous voice sounded as good as it did on the original recordings. While the energy during the Beatles songs was understandably unmatched, Paul clearly has a wealth of quality solo material from each of the last 4 decades, including a few great jams from last years Fireman project. He even broke it open on a few songs, going into improv jams that really added to the show.
Paul, while not a conversationalist contributed just enough timely back stories and nostalgic tales about his former bandmates to keep things lively. These sentimental tales, turned into song and provided some of the more memorable numbers from the evening including an acoustic version of “Here Today”(a song he wrote for John shortly after his death), a performance of “Something” on a ukulele given to him by George, and a campfire style singalong of John’s “Give Peace a Chance”.
While the night took a reflective turn at times, this was no nostalgia act. This was a legend, putting on a show to the likes of which I have never seen. Watching this show got me to think, when exactly was the peak of Paul’s live show? If you were to say the early days in the Cavern club, you are missing out on a whole lot of great material. The early Beatles Stadium tours were characterized by screaming women and poor sound systems, and they pretty much stopped playing live after Rubber Soul. Wings had its moments, but then again it was Wings. The solo tours of the 80′s and 90′s were great but there was a hesitance to play certain Beatles material and had a slight flair for the dramatic.
So where exactly is the peak of Sir Paul’s live show? While I can’t say for sure, I can say that the 2009 version of the Mccartney live show is full of energy, boasts a wide open songbook, and a flawless performance. Seeing Paul Mccartney live is an amazing experience, one that I won’t soon forget.