Friday, November 28, 2008

it took almost seven hours to sing

I could easily spend two weekends of any given month settled in at Largo, but alas, rent must be paid, plants must be watered, and so on. It always helps, though, when mob rule (i.e., at least one other person) helps dictate these rock tourism decisions.

Rhett Miller, Largo at the Coronet, November 22, 2008: I have an unofficial roster of people I want to see at Largo, work, time, and finances permitting. Rhett Miller has been on that list for while, and finally, events conspired to bring me to one of his shows in Los Angeles.

Pre-Coronet, Rhett took Largo's move harder than many of the artists associated with the club, so there was some question as to how he'd react to the new space. I'd say the outlook is good, as he reminded us that the same people who made it all possible were still steering the ship. Obviously, I've thrown my faith in with this lot for some time now, but it was nice to get the seal of approval from someone on the other side of the stage. Clearly, we did a banner job rolling out the welcome wagon.

I've seen Rhett on his own a handful of times before, but I was curious what would differentiate his show at the Coronet from the gigs I've seen in San Francisco. To my surprise, this show didn't feel radically different from the last one I attended at the Swedish American Hall three whole years ago. In both alcohol-free clubs, the audience maintained respectful hush, though voices piped in hoots and requests now and again. To tell you the truth, I preferred this super-relaxed air to the giddy, amorous anticipation that often marks his concerts (pot, meet kettle?). This, combined with the Coronet's stately frame, somehow made Rhett's teen idol moves more palatable as well.

This debatable detail aside, Rhett apparently took the setting into consideration too, as he made an effort to include at least one song that he doesn't regularly air, and tonight that distinction went to "Holy Cross." I'm not familiar enough with Rhett's or the Old 97s' catalog to have known that myself, so I was glad he alerted us to its significance. Another point lost to my cluelessness is the new material he's written for his next solo album, which he's set to start recording in the new year. If it helps any, he may have suggested that we picture ourselves around a campfire for one of them. Filling out the bulk of the set were familiar favorites such as "Doreen" and "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)."

I love seeing frontmen (and women) away from their bread-and-butter bands to find out where the songs come from and how they develop. With Rhett's solo material, it was easy to hear the tunes' simpler roots compared to the busier final products, but my ignorance rears its head once again, as I admit that the differences were less discernible to me on the Old 97s' material. However, even I realize the band typically contributes harmonies and lead guitar. I missed both elements tonight, but at least I had a Rancheros Brothers gig still to come.

Greg Proops opened up the show with a short set, and of course, the election provided plenty of opportunity for commentary. In his snarky and studied monologue, he revealed that he was a Hillary supporter; in retrospect, that shouldn't have been a surprise, but it does explain some of his more barbed observations.

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