Tuesday, November 16th, 2004
If I Had a Hammer
It was the American Music Club reunion tour in support of Love Songs For Patriots that brought me to Chicago this past weekend. The Luna show was undoubtedly a bonus, but I had already bought my plane ticket before it was announced. I’ve mentioned before the deep impression Eitzel made as a solo performer opening for Low a couple years ago, so the promise of seeing a revitalized Mark Eitzel fronting his old band was motivation enough to get me on a plane. Which brings us to last Saturday night.
Schubas was thankfully easier to get to than the Abbey Pub the previous night, though I did get there pretty damn early and ended up sitting around in the bar waiting for the live music room to open up. Schubas is nice – since the music room is totally closed off from bar, there was really no one talking during the show. The wood decor gave it a nice church-y feel as well. I approved. Of wood, that is, not so much church.
When the doors finally did open, I made a bee-line for the merch table where I got to chat with opener Will Johnson of Centro-Matic for a little while. He said that the exorbitant border crossing fees, which were turning out to be pricier than their guarantees, were why they hadn’t toured through Toronto in ages. He did promise to try to make it up here next year when the new Centro-Matic album comes out in August. I picked up a copy of his new solo record Vultures Await as well as a tour-only live album that was recorded in his kitchen. When he took the stage a little while later, I was surprised to find that his voice wasn’t as raspy as it seemed on record, but was actually deeper and more soulful than you’d expect. Friendly and gracious throughout his set, he played mostly material released under his own name with only a couple of Centro-Matic (read: familiar to me) songs thrown in. The addition of a second player on subtle keyboards and violin added an extra textural dimension to the proceedings, all in all a pretty compelling performance. I would so love to see a full Centro-Matic show.
And then American Music Club. There’s no backstage at Schubas, so there wasn’t much in the way of fanfare when the band took the stage, weaving their way through the audience to get onstage. They just strolled onstage and tore into “Royal Cafe” from Everclear, followed by “Blue & Gray Shirt”. Even though they had a splendid new album to push, you could tell from the get-go that this was going to be an evening spanning their entire career (they actually only played four songs from Patriots) and that was fine with pretty much everyone in attendance. It took the band a few songs to really lock in, but when they finally did, they were ferocious. The rhythm section of Tim Mooney and Dan Pearson were particularly thundering, while Vudi’s ability to coax the prefect texture and atmosphere out of his guitar wasn’t dulled by his day job driving buses, though that gig must pay better than you’d think – he was not playing inexpensive gear. And Eitzel? Well, the notoriously mercurial singer must have been having a good day, because he was positively jovial. Maybe being back in his adopted hometown (at least during his solo years) put him in a good mood – he was cracking jokes and in huge voice.
It was hard to believe that they’d been apart for almost a decade before this album and tour, because together they were still a fearsome musical force. Mercury‘s “Challenger” was especially explosive. If there was one shortcoming, it was in the pacing of the set. The sequencing of the set and in-between song lulls could have been better handled, and the one hour-ten minute set time including encore seemed just too short. Curiously, the set list (which I snagged) listed two encore sets, but instead of following the schedule, Mark picked songs at random after being called back up to the stage. But all this is nitpicking – in this year of the cash-in reunion tours, it’s good to see one band that’s still artistically vital and hasn’t lost a step.
Want more? The band’s website seems to have all of Love Songs For Patriots available to stream. Columbus Alive talks to Mark Eitzel about the AMC reunion (from Donewaiting). As I mentioned yesterday, here are my pics from the show. I think I overheard that the band will continue touring in the new year, so hopefully that’ll bring them up this way – I’d love to see them again.
Bob Mould finally addresses the rumours of a Husker Du reunion that have been swirling since Grant Hart joined him onstage at the Benefit for Karl Mueller concert last month. Long story short? Don’t expect to be dusting off those Land Speed Record-era t-shirts anytime soon. Or likely ever.
Ottawan Lucinda-like Kathleen Edwards will release her sophomore album Back To Me on March 1. Funnily, I was just thinking this weekend that I haven’t listened to Failer in ages. I should do something about that.
TV On The Radio has won the Shortlist Prize. I’ve actually never heard them, so I can’t comment on how deserving they are, but I do take some comfort in the fact that at least it wasn’t Franz Ferdinand.
So this guy claiming that he’s found Atlantis off the coast of Cyprus. I hope he’s right and that he’s wrong. Naturally, if his claims prove true, it’s an amazing find, but being a secret subscriber to crazy archaeology theories (hello Graham Hancock), I was/am hoping that one of the more out-there theories, like Atlantis is actually Antarctica, is true. It just makes the world that much more interesting. Hell, I’d settle for anywhere outside the Mediterranean. Personally, I’m more interested in them opening up the secret chamber underneath the Sphinx. The one Edgar Cayce predicted would hold the secret knowledge of the Atlanteans. Yeah, that one. I’ve just lost, like, ALL credibility, haven’t I? Chromewaves = nutbar. Yeah.
np – Will Johnson / Vultures Await