Goodbye Blue Monday: Dean & Britta at the Cedar

Dean & Britta Feb. 11, 2008 Cedar Cultural Center Review by Jeff Shaw Photos by James Tran

"For us, it's the coldest day of the year," began Dean Wareham. "Maybe of our lives."

As a member of Galaxie 500 and Luna, Wareham crafted practically perfect atmospheric pop, spacey lounge-act fare suitable for cocktails and candles. For the past several years, together with former Luna bandmate (and current wife) Britta Phillips, Wareham generates gentle, melodic music with a nod to the retro. Monday night at the Cedar, he was nodding to the weather.

This isn't to say Dean & Britta were nonplussed to be in Minneapolis. "Mary Tyler Moore was one of my first crushes," he quipped after bringing a few guitar-pop tunes into the Cedar Cultural Center. And we fared better than one East Coast town. When Wareham finally shed his fetching striped sweater midway through the evening, he was wearing a "Boston Sucks" t-shirt, and wryly asked the crowd not to YouTube him sporting the inflammatory apparel.

Goodbye Blue Monday: Dean & Britta at the Cedar

Boston might suck in Dean Wareham's eyes, but Dean & Britta's music doesn't, and neither do these photos by James Tran.

The warm guitars and vocals as contrast to the cold night outside. Phillips' honeysuckle voice melding with Wareham's, which ranges from a throaty croak to a soaring harmonic instrument depending upon the occasion, created many of the fine distinctions found in each song. Dean & Britta's music lends itself well to nighttime listening and an close-in venue, and the intimacy of the Cedar was perfect for their sound and aesthetic. Wareham's idiosyncratic, bittersweet lyrics never risked getting lost in the mix.

Theirs is a sound that draws upon much that came before it, psychedelia and lounge rock, on Serge Gainsbourg and the Velvet Underground. Also on Lee Hazlewood and Ann-Margret, whose song "You Turned My Head Around" Dean & Britta transformed into a crowd-pleasing call-and-response delight.

The evening ended early, sending us back into the world just after 10 p.m. with two nods to the past. The main set was sealed off with the high-register "Tiger Lily" from the Luna canon -- a song the band recorded before Phillips joined. Fittingly, it was an encore cover of Joy Division's "Ceremony" (by request) that sent us out the doors. With that, we were all on our way home a little warmer.

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