The Dandy Warhols at First Avenue, 6/9/13
Photo courtesy of the artist
The Dandy Warhols
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Sunday June 9, 2013
Sometimes a veteran rock band will perform one of its old albums in concert, beginning to end. You know this happens. It's no longer a trend or phenomenon to be excited or annoyed by, it's just an inescapable fact of the 21st century live music experience, and it works better with some albums than others.
Maybe only the die-hardiest of Dandy Warhols fans consider the Portland band's 2000 breakthrough album, 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia, a bona fide classic -- if that sort of fancy classification matters to you. But it's for sure a solid collection of songs, and with its deliberate pacing, repeatedly building from dreamy to punchy before again tapering off, well-suited to the LP-as-concert format.
An electronic thrum already filled the First Avenue mainroom when the band's four members arranged themselves across the front of the stage in a horizontal tableau: Zia McCabe, perpetually hipshaking behind her keyboard bank; drummer Brent DeBoer, his Lindsey Buckingham-like afro glowing in the stage lights; the well-preserved frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor, hair pulled back starkly from his face; and Peter Holmström, cutting a somewhat mystic
figure in his hat and heavy beard. (A touring bassist and a multi-instrumentalist lurked upstage, supporting the core musicians.)
Taylor-Taylor's languorous acoustic guitar strum set the tone for the opening songs. "Godless," punctured by a Cake-like trumpet, flowed into the chintzy exotica of "Mohammed," which in turn gave way to the feedback swells of "Nietzsche." (That last song's "I want a god who stays dead/ Not plays dead" was apparently the personal affirmation of a big guy in a backwards baseball cap near me, who punched the air as he sang along.)
The rootsy genre-exercise "Country Leaver" offered a transition into three straight-up rockers: "Solid," about Taylor-Taylor's almost sociopathic ability to get over a breakup; "Horse Pills," a smirky critique of medicated decadence; and the jaunty orgasm addict's anthem "Get Off."
The energy eased up then, as it was time for the lovely ballad "Sleep" and then "Cool Scene" offering a reminder of a simpler time, when you had write songs complaining about the people in your town instead of blasting them on Twitter.
The set climaxed with the band's breakthrough tune, "Bohemian Like You," its guitars offering as lively a Rolling Stones imitation any indie rockers have pulled off in the past twenty years, and "Shakin'," which cheekily rips off Elastica ripping off Wire. The album's final songs, "Big Indian" and "The Gospel," with its borrowed refrain from "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," offered a coda of sorts.
The trip through 13 Tales took about an hour. Taylor-Taylor was silent between songs, which occasionally gave the set an expedient air -- not rushed or perfunctory, but purposeful. But once the band polished off the main course, they served up a forty-five minute dessert.
Taylor-Taylor, left alone on stage by his bandmates, announced that it was time for a singalong. He introduced the band's 1997 song, "Everyday Should Be a Holiday," as the product of a time he and Holmström spent "hanging at the Loring Café all fucking day" with their "Minneapolis girlfriends" -- and then getting out of town before the first snowfall.
The local references continued with "Minnesoter" and, you could say, with the band's take on "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which does mention Wisconsin, after all. This not-quite-encore portion of the night was heavier and noisier, and maybe just a little looser and sloppier.
And eventually, of course the band romped through "We Used to Be Friends," aka the Veronica Mars theme, which has maybe eclipsed "Bohemian Like You" as their best-known song. Because playing your biggest hit toward the end of the night is just something veteran rock bands do, after all.
Personal Bias: No disrespect to 13 Tales, but I prefer the Dandys' punchier, poppier 2003 follow-up, Welcome to the Monkey House, produced by Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, with its perkier, quirkier synths cutting through the guitar strum-and-swell.
The Crowd: Not strictly a Dandys-aged bunch. A good chunk of the audience might have been in college when 13 Tales was released. Or high school. Middle school even.
Overheard In The Crowd: "They're just gonna to play the record, like, one song after the other?"
Random Notebook Dump: I've gotten used to having my view obstructed at shows by people raising their arms to shoot pictures or video with their phones, but that almost never happened Sunday night.
"Bohemian Like You"
"Everyday Is Like a Holiday"
"Well They're Gone"
"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"
"We Used to Be Friends"
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.