Andrew W.K. at First Avenue, 3/22/12

Andrew W.K. at First Avenue, 3/22/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Andrew W.K.
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Thursday, March 22, 2012

Click here for the slideshow

One thanks the stars that Andrew W. K., who has spent a bit more time in the last five years curating an inscrutable public identity than releasing significant music, decided to tour his debut LP I Get Wet for its tenth birthday. After all his Adult Swim coverage, public speaking tours, forays into J-pop, and bewildering teases that perhaps he is not one man but many (if you don't know, now you know), this stellar debut album nearly gets lost in the shuffle.

While no one can deny that the man works hard, nor that he parties until he pukes, nor that he brought an abundance of queer, positive energy to the night's performance, one does realize with some disappointment that I Get Wet is coming into its own as its author is passing his prime.

Photo by Tony Nelson
Photo by Tony Nelson

In attempting to describe opener Aleister X, words fail a fellow. Nonetheless, here's an earnest effort--he's a rapper with a guitar. Math the Band came next, a charming, deeply infectious two piece. Their energy was inexhaustible, and they showed a good sense of comic timing in performance, knowing just when to mug for the crowd and when to see about the necessary thrashing. They were strident and dear and deeply evocative of bygone local heroes Unicorn Basement.

To the surprise of no one, Andrew W. K. opened with "It's Time to Party," the hip-kick that opens I Get Wet. He was eager and game but clearly showed his tour fatigue from the start. But who had time to notice that? There were mosh pits to form and water bottles to upend and stages to bum rush.

His band was a menagerie of the very heshers that Andrew might long to become when he grows up--earnest, gifted, and more than slightly square. His numerous guitarists deftly handled the vocal work that Andrew was too winded or preoccupied to do himself. From the start of the show to the end, Andrew served as a ringleader, a George Clinton in tennis whites who gave occasional interludes on piano and who, on sheer charisma, stole the show despite supplying few of its high notes.

After dutifully performing the album in its entirety, Andrew encored with a handful of songs from his less approachable but arguably superior albums The Wolf and Close Calls With Brick Walls, ending the night with "We Want Fun," during which the stage was mobbed by sweaty creatures who scurried from the floor and from the walls to add to the clamor.

The show was marked by a deep camaraderie among the fans and by Andrew's wellspring of eccentric good nature, which seems to know no end. However, one can hardly help being mildly crestfallen; the Andrew on the album never gets winded, never needs rest, never goes limp, and is always up for more. The Andrew who performed last night was fervent, thrilling, yet discouragingly mortal.

Critic's Bias: I have been long been a steadfast fan of Andrew W. K.'s, but have become increasingly dismayed by his lack of significant releases and his preoccupation with his own image (which is admittedly beguiling).

The Crowd: Young and deeply susceptible to Andrew's pro-party agenda. Overheard: "Woo."

Random Notebook Dump: "Ready to Pee," a typo I hastily scrawled while being jabbed and jostled on my way to the rear of the room.

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