Dr. Dog at First Avenue, 2/7/14


Dr. Dog with Saint Rich

First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, February 7, 2014

Harmonies and pizza were bountiful at First Ave. on Friday night for Dr. Dog's second show in as many nights in Minneapolis. Yes, the Pennsylvania band brought out some Pizza Lucé to share with the sold-out room -- and fed the first few rows. The generous gesture, along with their infectious energy, made sure the evening was a party.

As an nod to their hosts, guitarist Frank McElroy donned a First Ave. stocking cap to keep warm. Stage props were also handy as they had their light-up sign read the hashtag-ready phrase "Yahshureubetcha."

The set easily blended new songs in with some old favorites, and the band kept their energy up, dancing the whole show and spreading an infectious vibe through the crowd. Dr. Dog isn't the sort of band that causes their audience to form circle pits or incite screaming fans, but the audience moving back and forth together as one has a happy intensity all the same.

Along with lead singers Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken trading passionate vocals, the near-perfect harmonies from the rest of the band effortlessly filled the hearty choruses. On all of the group's records, an early '70s classic rock sound blends into the material -- and they translate the catchy melodies live in a way that adds new life to the already catchy work.

Leaman's voice dazzled during the heavy, passionate ballad to "Too Weak to Ramble," one of the songs from the band's newest album, B-Room. If he hadn't been moving around before the song, anyone in the crowd would have thought he was about to keel over from weariness, for he sounded so broken-hearted, he could barely hold himself up. 
Included in the evening were songs that you fall in love with on first listen like "Shadow People" and the infectious "Jackie Wants a Black Eye." These fit perfectly with new favorites. "Nellie," with its addictive chorus. 
As the night moved along and fell into a bit of a lull, the pizza was brought out and passed to the audience -- perhaps to keep the munchies at bay for creators ofsome suspicious smoke clouds discreetly created amid the mass of bodies.
Saving their best for last, Dr. Dog made the Mainroom immediately crazy as the first riffs of "Lonesome" were strummed at the end of the encore. Leaman led the crowd into a lazy fever, and his enthusiasm gave everyone a last push of energy as the evening neared midnight. Dr. Dog set out what they wanted to do: bring a taste of summer to a Minnesota crowd that has been held in the throes of what seems like that longest winter. Thanks, Dr. Dog.
Critic's bias: The band gets more impressive every time I see them -- the last being last summer with Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers. While First Ave. is a great place to see them, they are best suited for summer festivals.
The crowd: Low-key, but into it.
Overheard in the crowd: On Scott McMicken wearing a Dr. Dog T-shirt - "Sometimes you just run out of clean clothes while on tour."
Random notebook dump: It must be a requirement to have a beard, stocking cap, and sunglasses to be in Dr. Dog.
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