If I were less uptight, I would take advantage of this platform to fire off odes, diatribes, and general musings about whatever band whenever the spirit hit me. Alas, I'm as buttoned-up in blogging as I am with everything else, so I confine my posts to specific events. This limited scope also means that sometimes, I really, really look forward to writing about certain bands. Such is the case with Doves, returning to the States with their first album in five years.
Doves, the Wiltern, May 16, 2009: It would be ridiculous for me to complain about a tour on which I saw a band in Cambridge, England, and Austin, Texas, but I have to lodge a small caveat to the Doves' last campaign through the United States. You see, they were touring at the same time as Wilco, and anyone who reads this blog knows how those conflicts typically turn out. Though I can't recall the exact details, I know I went to see Wilco at the Greek the same night Doves had a show--likely at the Wiltern. On the other hand, Wilco-related wanderlust fueled both of the aforementioned trips, so I guess you can also count those two Doves shows among the fringe benefits of my far-flung travels.
This same dilemma reared its head once more; on the very same night and in this very same city, Nels and Mike from Wilco were sharing a double bill. After much debate, I finally sided with Doves. Four years is an eternity in the rock timeline, and I didn't want to deprive myself any longer. Also, I'll see Nels and Mike plying their trade, though not in the same capacity, soon enough.
Make no mistake about it: I love Doves. I've been smitten ever since their first album, which brought me great comfort during some tough times. And though I hate to quantify artistry, they're probably my third-favorite band--not too shabby considering that the top two slots have been a lock for the past several years (just don't make me pick between them). By the same token, though, I've been fairly frank in saying that the band's live show isn't necessarily their strength.
Keeping in mind this mental asterisk, let me declare the Wiltern gig the best show I've ever seen by Doves. They sounded great, the visuals were stunning, I've never heard Jimi speak so much, and the crowd was right there with them. Who says concerts in L.A. suck? (Not me!)
To be expected, they concentrated on the new album, though they left off "Lifelines," which I had pegged as a sure anthemic closer. The big singles from Kingdom of Rust were well represented, with the excellent "Jetstream" opening the show, accompanied by footage of a jet plane's liftoff. The film supporting "Winter Hill" suggested snowfall, "Kingdom of Rust" was set among images evoking the American West, and oddly, "The Greatest Denier" played out against shots of the Chicago skyline. Further punctuating the cowboy connection in "Kingdom of Rust," Jimi dropped in a nod to the Beverly Hillbillies and attempted one of the worst Southern accents I've ever heard upon the conclusion of the song.
Jimi was as chatty as I've seen him. He singled out a couple "making out" in the balcony (I thought the Brits prefer the term "snogging"?) and took credit for bringing people together in marriage and parenthood via the band's message board. Mostly, though, I recall their gratitude for our continuing patronage, especially in a country that often shuts out even the most hyped U.K. artists.
Jimi may be pegged as the frontman, but Doves aren't complete with Jez and Andy. Jez kicked off the show, in fact, with "Jetstream" (have I mentioned how much I love that song? can I mention it again?) and "Words," while Andy switched spots with Jimi for his customary "Here It Comes," Wigan dance footage intact.
The band's singles don't really register in the United States, so as a fan in America, you become intimately familiar with their album tracks. Thus, now that Doves are on their fourth release, it's inevitable they'll leave someone's favorite song off the setlist. For example, I maintain that "Cedar Room" is one of the greatest songs ever, but I can't be bitter about its absence, especially when they're featuring unexpected titles such as "Ambition" and "Firesuite."
About "Firesuite": This version was grittier and less mannered--to awesome affect--than I recall. It also reminded me that I, for one, can't live on earnest singer-songwriters alone. Damn, that song is one slinky, silky tease of a tune, and few bands do it as well as Doves.
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