According to my concert diary (a.k.a. this blog), it's been more than a year since I've seen a show at the Fillmore. Wow, I really have been out of the loop--or, more appropriately, I've been tracing a pattern on a completely different Moebius strip. For Doves, though, I'd be willing to circle in a holding pattern for some time. (You could also argue I've, in essence, done exactly that.)
Doves, the Fillmore, May 18, 2009: At the end of the Doves' Wiltern show, my friend turned to me and said she wished she could see the band again. I know that feeling well, and I've uttered those very same words--and I hate being in that situation. If I could've helped her escape that fate, I would have done so. Selfishly, though, I was just happy for my temporary reprieve.
On the surface, the variations between the Fillmore and Wiltern gigs are easy to report. For one, the Fillmore is smaller, so you have to recalibrate the audience response and the band interaction accordingly. However, we let the Doves know we love them (literally, in the case of one guy's proclamation to Jez), and they in turn thanked us for our early and ongoing support. Also, we got one song in San Francisco ("Compulsion") that wasn't played in Los Angeles.
Regarding the rest of their setlist, I appreciated Jimi's comment on "Kingdom of Rust," calling it a "Lancashire spaghetti western," in case we missed the other clues (the ranch footage, the Sergio Leone feel). Elsewhere, he threatened/promised some freestyling, but it didn't materialize.
For me, though, the biggest difference between the two gigs came down to proximity. In Los Angeles, my friend and I had consciously decided to forgo the pit, though we were in prime position for the Wiltern's coveted wristbands. It was the right decision at the time. At the Fillmore, however, there was only one place to be, and it offered a new perspective--in more than one sense--of the show.
The best bands tend to exceed the sum of their parts; it's not just a lyric, a melody, a guitar solo, or a drum fill. If you're lucky, it's all of the above, plus some other X factor tying them all together. This sums up the Wiltern experience, as we leaned back, relaxed, and reveled in the group's epic soundscapes.
Up close at the Fillmore, though we were still dancing and taking it all in, I got the chance to appreciate the separate ingredients. If I had to point to a single song that best brought together all these senses, it might be "Pounding," with its driving beat, percolating bass line, and glissando of guitar. (Note: I would probably say that about most Doves songs.)
Doves fascinate me because they strike me as one of the few true democracies as far as bands go. Though Jimi does much of the talking and the singing, I've yet to see him offering himself as a symbol and a focal point for the band--ingrained behavior among typical frontmen.
While it could be easy to overlook Jez and Andy's contributions, that would be a huge mistake. Jez brings those killer guitar licks, and Andy supplies the groove that anchors and distinguishes so much of the group's music. That's just the surface presentation too; few of us could know what goes on in the studio. No act bore out this equanimity better than their choice of a closer: "There Goes the Fear," which concluded with each band member on a percussion instrument. Besides, it just looked cool.
Long before I sat down to write this post, I had in mind several points I wanted to bring up: the different set of friends I had when I first started listening to the Doves nine years ago; how I tend to favor a "no production" style of production nowadays, far removed from the Doves' strengths; how most of the bands they're often compared to (U2, Coldplay) can't move me to anywhere near the extent Doves do. Basically, there's little reason I should be a Doves fan in 2009--yet I am, and all signs point to one explanation: There is no one else like them, and that is an achievement in itself.
Wild Light opened in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. They weren't afraid to deliver a full, confident sound, and it was clear that they had been playing together for a long time. It was impossible to not hear the antecedents to their sound, but oddly, the first reference that hit me wasn't the bands I grew up with, but their direct descendant: the Killers. They're not my thing, but their army of fans will likely disagree.
» seems that I've been waiting here forever