Tuesday, March 13, 2007

come see what we all talk about

If you were to ask for my opinion of Badly Drawn Boy, I wouldn't hesitate to tell you that I'm utterly enamored of the guy and his music. But at the same time, I'll admit that he may not be your cup of tea, which is exactly how I presented this show to the gang in Chicago. Bless their hearts for taking up the offer, despite the caveats.

Badly Drawn Boy, the Metro, March 10, 2007: By all measures, we shouldn't have made this gig. We didn't know when doors opened, we left the house late, we didn't buy tickets ahead of time, and--most important--we didn't know the show was sold out! Despite these odds, we managed to locate the exact number of tickets needed and buy them at face value or, in Kris's case, for free. The only sacrifice: we missed a couple of songs in Damon's set before we were comfortably situated.

Badly Drawn Boy, the Metro, March 10, 2007Still, I was nervous about this gig. When I last saw Damon in San Francisco back in October, he put on a less than satisfactory show, and recent reports indicate that he's not exactly turning that frown upside-down. As a longtime fan, I expect his antics, but it's not something I hope for when I'm making the case for Damon with BDB newbies.

My fears turned out to be unfounded--Damon and his band turned in a wonderful, lively show. He betrayed no signs of petulance or self-pitying, as he had in San Francisco. Instead, he seemed surprised by the crowd's genuine enthusiasm; hell, I was too! At one point, he confessed that it was the first time in the tour that he had enjoyed every minute of the performance.

As you might guess, Damon and co. favored the most recent album, Born in the UK, though he apologetically used lyric sheets for the new titles. I don't think anyone minded, especially since he was so earnest and open with a lot of the song explanations. Also, he didn't seem to need any help with the back catalog, even the b-sides.

Ordinarily, my favorite part of the night would be Damon's solo acoustic turn in the middle of the show, especially when it includes the eternally sublime "The Shining." But this evening, the crowd's energy demanded the participation of the whole band, and though I'd never call them tight, they add a solid presence to Damon's deceptively slamming tunes.

"Like a Virgin" was not a surprise for me, but I'll take anything that leads into "Silent Sigh." Instead, the twist came in Damon's response to the Metro's 10:15 curfew. Damon, who's been known to play for three hours, claimed that the band had another 10 songs they wanted to get to. As a consolation, he offered a tune that he said they had never done before: a completely unironic "Don't Stop Believing" that had fists pumping, voices raised, and heads bobbing all over the room. As the song played, Damon worked the front row, shaking hands and making friends with fans and staff alike--always a man of the people.

After the show, we went out for dinner down the street, and on our way back to the car, we peeked into the Gingerman (the bar next door to the Metro), where Kris had seen Damon and a band member before the gig. Lo and behold, the afterparty was starting to take off in the room. We squeezed in just long enough for me to ask Damon if he planned to drop in on Jon Brion's show the next day. Alas, their reunion will have to wait a little while longer, since Damon and the band were scheduled to play Minneapolis the next day, but like many other people in Chicago this particular weekend, he seemed truly regretful to have missed Jon.

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» a strong heart will prevail