Monday, April 21st, 2008
Photo by Frank Yang
In hindsight, it probably wouldn’t have seen as fitting if a tonne of people had showed up. American Music Club spent the whole first phase of their career as the quintessential critically acclaimed and commercially ignored band, and unlike some of their brethren who’d managed to parlay reunions into (profitable) victory laps of sorts, AMC seem to have managed to pick up right where they left off, turning out terrific records and having them overlooked by pretty much everyone. But then that’s how things seem fated to go when you’re the patron songwriters of the eternally bummed, which is to say, Mark Eitzel.
A handful of people had trickled into Lee’s Palace on Thursday night when opener Mark Wilson, down from Ottawa, took the stage. A few times in his set he thanked the audience for being so quiet, but that was less due to respect than being in absentia. Still, those who were there were silent for that’s what was needed to appreciate Wilson’s delicate, crystalline chamber folk. Wilson blended a fragile, airy voice reminiscent of Chris Garneau with an atmosphere like Great Lake Swimmers, accompanied by tasteful and understated electric guitar and cello.
For a man who’s earned something as a reputation for being moody and mercurial, Mark Eitzel was in remarkably cheerful form as he led the latest incarnation of American Music Club – only he and guitarist Vudi remain the only constants from the first era to the present – onto a Toronto stage for the first time in something like a decade and a half. He prefaced set opener “The Decibels and the Little Pills” with some background on the song and thus set the tone for the first part of the set, which drew heavily on the band’s post-reunion records, this year’s The Golden Age and 2004’s Love Songs For Patriots. While some songwriters risk dispelling some of the magic of their songs by explaining them, Eitzel’s anecdotes only served to enhance and though I’m sure many were anxious to hear the more classic material, the choice to focus on the new material – all executed marvelously – only served to reinforce my opinion that their new records stand up to anything the band has ever put out, and considering how highly I regard those albums, that’s saying something.
But those who had waited so long to hear something from California or Mercury were not to be disappointed. With “Western Skies”, the band opened up the back catalog and though I’m sure they’d have had to play every song they’d ever written to satisfy everyone, what they did play hit almost all the right notes. “Revolving Door” was majestic and “Blue And Grey Shirt” beautifully desolate, but “Hello Amsterdam” sounded over-sloppy and under-rehearsed. All was forgiven, however, with the set closer. For whatever reason – maybe because they declined to play it in Chicago in 2004 – I assumed that “Johnny Mathis’ Feet” was one of those songs that they never played anymore, but when Eitzel picked up the acoustic guitar and strummed those open and slightly out of tuned chords, when his huge, resonant voice belted out the chorus, I swear I swooned just a little and my list of things to experience before I died got one item shorter.
For the encore, they turned in a raucous “Wish The World Away” that came across about as well as its San Francisco companion “Hello, Amsterdam” but for the finale, they acquiesced to the one audience member who had yelled, “Play anything from Everclear!” and with just Eitzel and Vudi on stage, closed with a gorgeous “Jesus’ Hands” and sent the small but devoted crowd out into the night. I don’t know if American Music Club will ever come back to Toronto. I don’t know if will ever see them play again. But if I don’t, then that’ll be okay. Because I’ll have this.
Photos: American Music Club, Mark Wilson @ Lee’s Palace – April 17, 2008
MP3: American Music Club – “All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco”
MP3: American Music Club – “I Know That’s Not Really You”
MP3: American Music Club – “All My Love”
MP3: American Music Club – “Another Morning”
Video: American Music Club – “Johnny Mathis’ Feet”
Video: American Music Club – “Wish The World Away”
Video: American Music Club – “Electric Light”
Stream: American Music Club / The Golden Age
MySpace: American Music Club
MySpace: Mark Wilson
My Morning Jacket have let loose the title track from their next album, Evil Urges, due out June 10. They’re at the Kool Haus on June 16. Crawdaddy measures Jim James up against Neil Young because… well, I guess they were bored.
My regret about not being around for The Submarines’ show at the Drake Underground on May 24 is now amplified by the fact that Headlights will also be on the bill. All fans of great pop music, be there. Their new one Honeysuckle Weeks is out May 13.
Also out May 13 is Directions To See A Ghost, the new one from The Black Angels. They’ve got a tour booked to support and will be at Lee’s Palace on June 26 with The Warlocks. Oh, Lee’s is going to smell funny that night, yes it most certainly is.
Anyone who had tickets to see Cut Copy, Black Kids and Mobius Band at Lee’s Palace on May 9 take note – the show has been moved to The Phoenix. Anyone who didn’t have tickets to see Cut Copy, Black Kids and Mobius Band… you can now get some if you want. Cut Copy are also featured in Spinner’s Interface right now and Prefix has an interview.