Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The dB’s, House of Blues, Chicago, 9/17/05

Crystal and I spent this past weekend in and around Chicago, so we were able to catch the second of only four ‘05 reunion shows by a favorite band of mine, the dB’s.

The House of Blues is located in downtown Chicago and it of course is a big hamburger joint and ridiculously lavish hotel in addition to a music venue. This show was located in the smaller club-sized room, the Backyard. The would-be-funky blues iconography is pretty OTT and cheesy, but ignorable. The food (granted, we only had catfish dippers with sweet potato fries) was decent and the beer was surprisingly sensibly priced. It must be said, the House of Blues is less stupid than the Hard Rock Cafe, damning with faint praise though that may be.

Opening first was a white chick with an acoustic guitar and ostentatious big voice in the Melissa Etheridge vein. Nothing to do with the dB’s, really. After that came a garden variety indie-pop combo, a more sensible opener.

The dB’s opened with rather shaky renditions of “Ask for Jill” and “Big Brown Eyes.” Everyone looks pretty much like older versions of their early-’80s selves, with the notable exception of singer-guitarist Peter Holsapple, who is now bald with a ‘stache and tiny beard. I thought of Pat Croce, Crystal saw G. Gordon Liddy.

At the center stage stood singer-guitarist Chris Stamey playing a red Stratocaster. Holsapple was to his left with a blue Tele, and bassist Gene Holder stood to his left, being utterly unobtrusive even for this mostly taciturn lot. He’s the Entwistle of a group of guys who don’t exactly possess a Who-like stage presence. Drummer Will Rigby sat where drummers go, looking very academic with his floppy hair and horn rims. To their right was an extra guy, a keyboardist/backing singer named, I believe, Andy Bergman. This meant Holsapple -- who played a lot of keyboards on the albums and live shows of yore -- stuck to guitar tonight.

Song three, “Happenstance” moved a lot more smoothly than the previous two, with a low-key chorus to give the song some new dramatics. The band seemed to be having some sound system issues. Stamey’s vocals and guitar would be on the losing end of this for much of the night.

Most of the material came from their debut, stands for deciBels with a bunch from their second, Repercussion. The posthumous demo/singles/oddities collection Ride the Wild TomTom was represented by “If and When” and the instrumental “Purple Hose.” Additionally they played four promising songs from their upcoming reunion record. Perhaps most surprisingly, they performed three songs from the albums made after Stamey left the band -- “Lonely is as Lonely Does,” “Molly Says,” and the rapturously received (and deservedly so) “Love is for Lovers.”

Don’t know if it was the sound problems or not being a functioning unit since Reagan’s first term, but there were some cobwebs. The band had an easier time with Holsapple’s relatively simpler ravers like “Living a Lie” and “Black and White” (though Holsapple himself sometimes strained for his upper register). Stamey’s knottier oddball numbers like “Cycles per Second” and “She’s Not Worried” lacked more for cohesion. That said, let it be known that Will Rigby was awesome all night. His drumming was propulsive and intricate, and he wasn’t even showing off.

The band gained confidence as the night wrapped up. They nailed “I’m in Love” and “Neverland” at the end of their set, then topped that with an excellent first encore of “Amplifier.” The crowd of aging record collectors was so thrilled, the group complied with a second encore of two new songs, because, as Holsapple claimed, they were out of rehearsed old ones. Not a perfect show, but there’s promise here that more shows (and more appropriate venues) could really build on. If there’s a Philly show on their schedule for 2006, I’ll go see it.

2 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Rubin said...

Please let us know if Lets Active, the Swimming Pool Qs or Don Dixon are coming around, too. They put out some serious vinyl.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Dan Buskirk said...

No surprise that Rigby shined through. There's something about his style that is indefinably awesome. Shame he didn't do a medley from SIDEKICK PHENOMENON.

2:12 PM  

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