Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Saddest Quo

Pernice Brothers live and Pernice Brothers on record have traditionally been two rather different propositions. The albums usually utilized a wide range of instrumental textures and orchestration that were difficult to reproduce live, so they were rearranged for a more rocking onstage delivery – just compare the album versions of earlier songs on the Nobody’s Listening live album. But with 2003’s Yours, Mine & Ours, Joe Pernice made the subtle but significant move of dispensing with strings and writing around a more conventional band structure. While the songs maintained his pop smarts and lyrical wit and melancholy, the musical component got more upbeat and electric guitar-driven. The latest album Discover A Lovelier You continues this trend, most obviously indulging Pernice’s love of 80s new wave and British indie.

So with the albums moving steadily towards the rock end of things, would that mean that the recordings and live shows would finally be reflections of one another? In a word, no. Based on last night’s show at Lee’s Palace, it would seem that they’re reining things in a little – the arrangements sounded a little thinner than usual. Maybe it’s that new drummer Patrick Berkery isn’t as aggressive on the kit as his predecessors Mike Belitsky and Ric Menck or maybe it that Joe chose to play exclusively acoustic guitar (though probably a wise choice considering how much he was sweating onstage – an electric would have shorted out within three songs). Whatever it was, the show started out disappointingly flat. The mix was exceedingly quiet, with vocals in particular buried and the opening few songs off Discover were rather laid back in delivery. The oppressive heat certainly didn’t help, as warm as it was in the audience it was surely many times hotter under the stage lights. Thankfully the band picked things up as the night progressed, though there were still some audible flubs and missed changes at a few points. By the end of the night, energy levels were considerably higher, Joe seemed to have given up trying to towel the sweat off his face and guitar and set closer “7:30” was as rousing as you would have hoped (though Peyton Pinkerton and James Walbourne’s backing vocals on the “ba ba ba” outro were still way too quiet).

It wasn’t the best performance of theirs I’d seen, but it still turned out decent enough for the modest Monday night crowd. The stagelights that were causing Joe to lose several pounds in sweat did allow for some decent photos, though. It’d been a little while since I’d shot a show in a club. Just like falling off a bike, which is something else I’ve had practice at lately. And thanks to Thierry of Let It Blog for pre-emptively informing me that the final song of the encore was “Doll in a Music Box”, from the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack. This bit of trivia was given in exchange for never asking how he knew this.

Shows – Bloc Party are at The Docks September 12. Someone REALLY needs to open another medium-large venue in this town. Really. There’s something terribly wrong when you pine for the cozy environs of the Kool Haus. A good show in a good venue, for example, will be Bob Mould bringing his Body Of Song to the Mod Club on October 2. Also, Nada Surf are at Lee’s Palace on October 12 with Say Hi To Your Mom, tickets $13.50.

JAM! documents the summer of Kathleen Edwards, which, incidentally, she is blogging intermittently over at her website (in the News section).

Pop (All Love) questions the shelf life of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois, and nominates his own top 10 albums of recent years that Mojo will still be fawning over decades down the line. Tongue planted only lightly in cheek. I think.

Bradley’s Almanac has mp3s from Dinosaur Jr’s sort-of homecoming show in Boston from last Friday. He manages to make me feel bad that I was scrubbing dirt and grime off my balcony instead of having my eardrums demolished by J, Lou and Murph, but the audio is good and by God, that balcony is clean now. He also gives Jason Lowenstein some love – that contest from yesterday is still open, email me by, say, noon if you want to get on the guest list for tonight’s show. Only a couple spots left! Contest closed! Thanks for playing, winners, hope you enjoy the show. Come back tomorrow, I’ve got another one starting up.

np – Ride / Live at the Town & Country, London – March 1991

By : Frank Yang at 8:36 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. lucaswiththelidoff says:

    I was at the show last night as well. I agree with most of your observations.

    There were moments that I thought the material was really good and then others were I was just somewhat interested. Maybe a Monday night show can do that to you.

    Kudos to Lee’s for the renovations.

  2. mike says:

    I sorely missed the background vocals during the "Don’t cry baby…" part of "The Weakest Shade of Blue" and I agree that the "ba ba ba’s" at the end of "7:30" was way too quiet(I actually had to look at the keyboardist/guitarist to know that he was actually singing the "ba ba ba’s" at the end of "7:30").

    Anyway, I still enjoyed the show.

  3. mike says:

    from where I was sitting (against the side wall, on those really high seats), the sound was fine for the most part. I did notice some missed changes/flubs though, which is a good thing….who wants to see a note perfect performance anyway??!?

    frank, do you by any chance have an mp3 of their New Order cover anywhere in your archives??

    ps. their lead guitarist reminds me of the judge from Canadian Idol, the mean one

  4. Frank says:

    I have no problem with flubs, being no lover of perfection. It did reinforce, however, that maybe the band was just having an off night. It happens, no biggie.

    You’re talking about the Chappaquiddick Skyline version of "Leave Me Alone"? I do have the album, but haven’t ripped it nor had I planned on posting it anytime soon, I try to avoid regular album tracks if possible.

  5. Neil says:

    The bass player was pretty obviously playing from charts – I know that Thom Monahan pulled out pretty abruptly which explained some of the looseness as well as the poor sound. I’m pretty sure Thom usually handles the live sound.

    I saw the Pernice brothers when they played the Horseshoe a few years ago with the full original "World won’t end" lineup. Comparing that show (which was bliis-inducing) to this one the major component I really missed was Laura Stein’s backup vocals. I totally agree, though – James Walbourne’s (keyboard / guitarist / singer) backup vocals were *way* too low in the mix.

    I was really happy that Joe decided to do a solo song at the end; it gave the audience a chance to hear just how good his voice really is. Hopefully he’ll do some more solo shows around town after the tour’s over?

  6. tyrone says:

    sounds like a pretty great show.

    so anyone going to see the mirrors tonight at the silver dollar?

  7. ovenking says:

    hey frank, was that you standing to the left of the stage taking pics halfway through the show?

    seriously, lee’s plunks down cash for all these renos and they still can’t afford a decent ventilation or a/c system? not even some fans for the band? poor joe, but at least i wasn’t catching any sweat spittle.

    sure the vocal mix wasn’t that, and the flubs were noticeable, but still, they know how to rock it out. yeah!

  8. Thierry says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s Pernice Bros. show, but the band was clearly still working out the kinks: it was only their second show of the tour (their first full show, as they only had a 45-minute slot on Sunday at Ottawa’s Bluesfest), and their bass player is new to the band and – said Joe – has had to learn to play thirty songs in a couple of weeks (you could see him place the charts on the stage floor before each song).

    Yes, the vocals could’ve been higher in the mix – that seems to be a common complaint with Pernice Bros. shows (a number of live reviews over the past 5 years in the Big Takeover mentioned this problem, and it was also apparent on last year’s Nobody’s Listening/Nobody’s Watching) – but the quality of the songs and James Walbourne’s wonderful Harrisonesque leads more than made up for this. Still wish they’d played "The Ballad of Bjorn Borg" though – and the "hottest summer in a hundred years" live would’ve been a perfect fit.

  9. Frank says:

    ovenking – yup, that was me.

    Thierry – agreed. I did notice the stack of sheets in front of the bassist. At first I thought they just gave him all the extra set lists or something.

    I did love the dualing slide guitars in "Dumb It Down", though. Brilliant stuff.

  10. Thierry says:

    Re: "Dumb It Down" – yeah, for a minute there I thought that they might just slip into the coda to "Layla". Thank god they didn’t.

  11. John says:

    I caught the show last night and really enjoyed it (though it is my first Pernice concert – I would have loved to see the "World Won’t End" – did they have live strings?). I agree with buried vocals and the slide was too hot in the mix as well. All in all though I really enjoyed it, I think they did a great job on "Snow". Would have loved to hear "Our Time Has Passed" and a few more "just Joe" tunes – maybe Bryte Side.

    I did get to talk to Joe before and have him sign the new CD, real nice guy.


  12. TS says:

    can you put me on the guest list for jason lowenstein???


  13. john says:

    Saw the show last night … third or fourth time i’ve seen PB. Also saw Joe a few weeks back solo acoustic at the Horseshoe.

    A few things:

    1. I thought the band sounded the best I’ve ever heard them. They were not that tight, but I found this to be an improvement. Someone mentioned Thom not being there … maybe that’s helped as I’ve always found his production a bit muddled, live and studio, esp Yours, mine …

    2. While the slide was too hot in the mix and the backing vocals were too low, isn’t James W a friggin great jack of all trades? While someone missed L Stein’s background vocals, I’ll take James’ overall talent ANY DAY

    3. Ok, the biggie — no one has mentioned Joe’s voice. He could NOT hit the high notes last night and was just plain off key more than once. Does he have a cold or was it the heat? He even changed his delivery of some songs to accomodate whatever was wrong with his voice….

  14. borg says:

    check out without gravity!!

    they’ll rock your socks off as well


  15. ovenking says:

    frank – thought so. i was the guy standing below on the other side of the railing.

    john – yeah, joe’s voice was definitely not hitting the notes. still, all credit to him for getting through it and making it sound credible enough to the casual fan. and yeah, james w is tha man. i thought his guitar work on many of the songs brought it all together.

  16. neil says:

    Out of curiosity does anyone know what the title was of the very last song Joe sang (the solo encore)? I assumed at first it was a Scud Mountain Boys track, but after thinking about it for a bit I don’t remember any SMB songs (or Joe Pernice songs even) that contained the word "shit"… :)

  17. Russ says:

    At least 2 Joe Pernice songs contain the word "shit". Just off the top of my head SADDEST QUO "…when I feel like I couldn’t even give a shit" and GRUDGE F— from SMB "I really miss the shit where you’re concerned…"

    Unfortunately I was not at the show and cannot help you with the title you are seeking.

  18. Simon says:

    Hey Neil, Joe’s last song (solo) was Bum Leg from his Big Tobacco album. It’s always incredible to hear him deliver that tune live.

  19. Thierry says:

    Yeah, he played "Bum Leg" at the Horseshow solo gig, and it was just as breathtaking as it was on Monday night.

  20. Theresa says:

    If you thought Joe wasn’t hitting the high notes at Lee’s, you should have seen them in Buffalo. He lost his voice a few times! This is only the start to the tour, so hopefully he’ll the voice before hitting the stage.

    The guys sounded rather off in Buffalo, but sounded alright at Lee’s. Royal Gun, however, totally kicked arse.

    Mohawk Place is a horrible venue. I don’t know why they get so many stellar acts. I cannot imagine Smog playing there (and he is!).

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