Dr. Dog at First Avenue, 2/17/12
First Avenue, Minneapolis
February 17, 2012
Dr. Dog turned the Mainroom stage into their own cozy living room Friday night at a sold-out First Avenue. They decorated their immediate surroundings with numerous lamps, afghans, and other random comforts of home including a fireplace, all of which helped set a warm, inviting atmosphere inside the packed club that, along with the band's celebratory songs, swept away the enthusiastic audience. The rousing, 100-minute set drew equally between Dr. Dog's spirited new record, Be The Void, as well as their back catalog.
Dr. Dog's songs aren't all that deep or technically precise, but they tap into genuine, heartfelt emotions. The energetic, 22-song set had little between-song banter from the group as they briskly went from one number to the next. The tempo was also kept high by the smooth transitions made by guitarist Scott McMicken and bassist Toby Leaman as they deftly traded-off vocal duties for the entire show, adding their own distinct style to each track on which they sang lead.
The performance started with a broad sampling of tracks from each of their last three records, with "That Old Black Hole," Stranger," and "The Breeze" (which turned into a boisterous crowd singalong). The group then settled in to a stretch of new songs which blended seamlessly with their older material, especially the rocking, rowdy riffs of "Vampire." "Someday" featured a rich, soulful intro, and kicked off the strongest portion of the set, as the band really shifted into high gear on "From," "These Days," and "I Only Wear Blue." Leaman even tenderly draped an afghan over McMicken's shoulders during the impassioned version of "Blue."
McMicken fondly mentioned the band's history with First Ave., telling us, "This is the first time we've played this place where we sold it out. Maybe it's time we get one of those stars outside." And, judging by the reception the group received from their well-lubricated fans, that honor should eventually bestowed upon the band. But they didn't waste any time worrying about that, and kicked into a version of "Hang On" featuring a pronounced the Band-like vibe to it.
The main set wound down with a bluesy, somewhat ominous version of "The Beach," that flowed nicely into "The Rabbit, The Rat, and the Reindeer," another boisterous highlight of the performance. "Shame, Shame" saw the band off before their encore, and seemed to be a way to allow both the group and the crowd to come down just a bit after the wild highs from earlier.
After a lengthy ovation, the group returned for a strong four-song encore that was highlighted by more crowd singalongs on the Flaming Lips-sounding hit "Shadow People," and the unifying anthem, "Jackie Wants A Black Eye." The band then got down one last time with their enthusiastic fans as they closed the night with a fiery cover of Architecture In Helsinki's "Heart It Races" that certainly got everyone's pulses up as they danced to the beat. Dr. Dog gave their fans everything they wanted and more Friday night, delivering a jubilant house party in their "living room" which left everyone elated and smiling.
Personal Bias: I hadn't seen Dr. Dog live since they opened for the Black Keys at First Ave. in 2006. It had been far too long.
The Crowd: Packed and clearly ready to party on a Friday night.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Did I just see someone walk onto the stage with a lion's head?"
Random Notebook Dump: It was cool to see McMicken and Frank McElroy decked out in Dr. Dog winter hats which matched Conrad's trusty cap.
That Old Black Hole
Do The Trick
I Only Wear Blue
The Rabbit, The Bat, And The Reindeer
Shadow People (Encore)
Worst Trip (Encore)
Jackie Wants A Black Eye (Encore)
Heart It Races (Architecture In Helsinki)(Encore)
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