Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

You Can't Hold The Hand Of A Rock And Roll Man

Man, I thought I was done with losing buckets of sweat ’cause of Texas after last weekend but Friday night, there I was in a sweltering and sold-out Lee’s Palace waiting for the first local show from one of Austin – and America’s – finest bands in Okkervil River, making their first local appearance in almost two years.

Their tourmate on this leg was Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado who, despite his imposing size and demeanor, played a set of slow, sad and pretty songs that were unfortunately lost on the restless and increasingly rowdy crowd. It was just the wrong setting for his stuff and I can only hope that his other dates on this tour have been in more sympathetic environs.

Okkervil, however, were more than up to the task of satisfying the audience’s desire for some rock. Though they got off to a bit of a comical false start – Will Sheff was unsure if he was in tune or if his capo was on the correct fret (two words, Will – contact lenses) and had to consult with keyboardist Jonathan Meiburg before starting off with a stately “Plus Ones” from The Stage Names.

It occurs to me now that I haven’t actually offered any formal thoughts on Stage Names, and considering that it’s the long-awaited follow-up to one of my favourite albums of the last five years – 2005’s Black Sheep Boy, of course – now’s as good a time as any. The short version is that no, Stage Names isn’t as grand and majestic as Black Sheep Boy but it makes no attempt to be. It looks to life instead of literature for inspiration, drawing on both popular culture and the experiences of being in a touring band but thankfully Sheff is too good a lyricist to fall into the potential cliche pitfalls that could lie down that road. Instead, The Stage Names is Okkervil’s most rocking and rollicking effort to date, simultaneously sounding looser and tighter than they ever have.

Which would be a pretty good way of describing them live, as well. In the past, the live Okkervil River experience could be chaotic and ramshackle in the most delightful sense but this time out, they were a deliberate, well-oiled machine. They still reached for the chaos at points, but it was obvious that even then they were still in total control. The front end of the show was actually a bit sedate by Okkervil standards, but near the halfway mark – incidentally right around the time Sheff shed his suit coat – they found the next gear and properly set about putting on an absolutely killer show. I never need reminding that Okkervil is one of my favourite bands going right now but it’s always good to see that opinion reinforced.

There’s still time to make it down to Hamilton to see them play the Pepper Jack Cafe tonight, and after that they continue touring pretty much through doomsday. The Boston Globe has an interview with Sheff about The Stage Names.

Photos: Okkervil River, Damien Jurado @ Lee’s Palace, Toronto – September 21, 2007
MP3: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”
MP3: Damien Jurado – “What Were The Chances”
Video: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” (YouTube)
MySpace: Okkervil River

The Duke Chronicle offers up an interview with John Vanderslice, in town October 1 at the El Mocambo.

Over at the Mountain Goats forum, John Darnielle has offered up an outtake from their new album to distribute and enjoy as we see fit. Say thanks by seeing them at Lee’s Palace this coming Tuesday night. Via Largehearted Boy.

M4A: The Mountain Goats – “From TG&Y”

SF Station talks to Matt Berninger of The National while Deaf Indie Elephants has their set at ACL last week available in MP3 form.

The Boston Globe talks to Yo La Tengo about science, offers photo of their midsections.

By : Frank Yang at 7:16 pm
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Frank says:

    note that the set list in the photos is incorrect – this is the proper set list,courtesy of Black Sheep Girl at the Okkervil message boards:

    1. Plus Ones
    2. Lady Liberty
    3. No Key, No Plan
    4. The Latest Toughs
    5. A Girl in Port
    6. Song of our So-Called Friend
    7. A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene
    8. Unless It’s Kicks
    9. Black
    10. So Come Back, I Am Waiting (Black Sheep Boy II)
    11. Our Life is Not a Movie Or Maybe
    12. For Real
    13. John Allyn Smith Sails

    14. The President’s Dead
    15. Okkervil River Song
    16. You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man
    17. Westfall

  2. Aimz says:

    Nice! Great Photos. I’m going to the Hamilton show tonight and will send a full report.

  3. cy says:

    you lucky folks who get a double dose in Hamilton, good for you. Great show at Lee’s – Frank, you’re right, it was a sauna.
    I thought Unless it Kicks the really peaked and set up the rest of the night – they blasted that one at us. Wonderful.

  4. hmc says:

    "In the past, the live Okkervil River experience could be chaotic and ramshackle in the most delightful sense but this time out, they were a deliberate, well-oiled machine. They still reached for the chaos at points, but it was obvious that even then they were still in total control."You really nailed it. Great pictures. Thanks.

  5. brad mcduffie says:

    Great post. I might add that with references to "A Night of Serious Drinking" and the poetry of John Berryman it’s tough to say that Sheff does not look to literature on the Stage Names. The more I listen to the album the more I get the feel of a short story cycle (i.e. the way Sheff uses the line "someone’s plus one" in "Girl in Port," etc."). But this same cycle feel can be felt in Black Sheep Boy and the majestic "Down the River of Golden Dreams." Keep up the good work, Frank.

  6. James says:

    Great show, but it was HOT. And I had a pack of frat boys in front of me and a drunken screaming girl next to me. But it was still a great show. It was too hot to stick around to try to talk to you, though….

  7. ryantheduke says:

    Damien had a much better crowd in Montreal. He was very appreciative.

    Thanks for the review and pictures! The Montreal show was great as well.. We have it on our blog if anyone would like to listen. Also, the videos of the show should be up tomorrow.