Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Old 97's at the TLA 12/11/10

I've seen the Old 97's or Rhett Miller solo 11 times now and the shows are still entertaining. They do play some songs at nearly every show, but they also play a nice chunk of their latest material, along with some older songs that are added back into the setlist rotation. So at least 1/3 of the set will usually be songs you haven't seen live before or at least not in a long time.

Part of what makes it fun seeing the band is that they have so much fun doing it. They really seem to enjoy playing together and that comes through during their live shows. Rhett Miller joked to bassist and songwriting partner, Murry Hammond, before one song that they spend so much together, they are like each other's second spouse. The quartet, which also includes guitarist Ken Bethea and drummer Philip Peeples, has been performing together for 17 years. You'd be hard-pressed to find another band with all the original members, who has been together at least that long, without breaking up and reuniting or going on hiatus. U2 is probably the only other one still going.

The formula remains the same for them - smart catchy pop/rock songs with a twang, highlighting their Beatles by way of 80's Alt Rock with a dose Johnny Cash influences and high-energy live shows. They are definitely one of those most hard-working and reliable acts of recent memory, remaining in a near-constant write/record/tour mode for almost their entire careers except for a few year break earlier last decade, right after they all got married and had kids.

This most recent show did not disappoint. It ranks somewhere near the top of the list of shows, perhaps 3rd or 4th best. I suppose it was a tad disappointing that some old favorites were left off the setlist like "Doreen", "Big Brown Eyes", "Streets of Where I'm From", "Won't Be Home", and "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)", to name a few. And in general the material from 1999-2004 - Fight Songs, Satellite Rides, and Drag it Up, isn't greatly represented any longer, but cuts have to be made to fit in the new material. And they can't play forever.

The highlights were the set closer, "If My Heart Was a Car" - a song that hasn't been played much since the 1990's but has resurfaced in most sets the last year or so. It is one of my favorite songs from their debut album, Hitchhike to Rhome, and this was the first time I have ever seen them do it live. And they began the encore with "Wish the Worst", also from their debut album. A few audience members had been yelling for that song all night and they finally obliged. This was also the first time I have ever seen this song live as well.

As expected, much of the rest of the setlist consisted of tracks from the new album, The Grand Theatre, Volume One - 9 tracks in all. The new material sounded great. They also played a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Rocks Off" during the encore at a time in the set where they had been playing R.E.M.'s "Driver 8" during much of this tour. The setlist below is pretty much spot on and was based on what the band had written up. The only track I'm not sure about is "Indefinitely", which wasn't on the official setlist, but was added after they found out Steve Garvey of the Buzzcocks was in attendance. And at the end of "Indefinitely" they referenced "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" as a nod to the influence that song had on their song.

1. The Grand Theatre
2. Here’s To the Halcyon
3. Dance Class
4. Lonely Holiday
5. You Smoke Too Much
6. Busted Afternoon
7. Champaign, Illinois
8. Victoria
9. Love Is What You Are
10. W Tx Teardrops
11. Please Hold On While the Train Is Moving
12. Stoned
13. Question
14. Designs On You
15. You Were Born To Be in Battle
16. Barrier Reef
17. Let the Whiskey Take the Reins
18. Rollerskate Skinny
19. Smokers
20. Indefinitely
21. Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)
22. Melt Show
23. If My Heart Was A Car

Encore-1-Rhett solo:
24. Here It Is Christmas Time
25. Holly Jolly Christmas
26. I Need To Know Where I Stand

Encore-2-whole band:
27. Wish The Worst
28. Rocks Off (Rolling Stones)
29. Dance With Me
30. Timebomb

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