Fruit Bats, the Independent, May 19, 2016: This is how much I love the Fruit Bats: I went to Eric Johnson's solo show, though I had no idea what to expect. The Fruit Bats are responsible for one of my favorite records of all time, Mouthfuls, and it arrived during a particularly music-heavy era for me. A friend recently posted a reminder of us all on AIM, listening to Mouthfuls and chatting away when we weren't flying and driving to see shows with each other. Oh, the Aughts! It was a good run.
As far as reunions go, Fruit Bats didn't exactly light up the headlines like LCD Soundsystem, but I'm glad they're back (with a decidedly less dodgy reasoning). It appears the Ruminant Band is supporting him again, so they obviously have the chemistry and teamwork under their belts. The shared experience was apparent from the sweet harmonies they added to Eric's already charming melodies.
As mentioned above, Mouthfuls is my favorite, and this show confirmed a suspicion: I like the Fruit Bats a lot better live than I do on record. Obviously, this comes down to personal preference, but their records don't hold my attention, whereas their live representation is all I want in a band, delivering great tunes, voices, musicianship, and energy. They didn't disappoint at all in that regard.
To my ears, Fruit Bats have always been folk music at its core, with a bit of production thrown in. Maybe it's my bias, but now that they're based on the West Coast, I hear so much more of the Laurel Canyon vibe. That's not bad news at all, and in fact, it's still as sweet as ever. When you have Eric's voice, you don't need to do a whole lot to pretty it up.
However, I noticed one big change. Perhaps due to last year's tour with My Morning Jacket, the audience is livelier and more invested than I recall from the last outing. They knew a ton of the songs, and they let the band know it. That has to be a huge lift for the musicians. I hope it carries over for the rest of the tour and beyond.
Alas, the only downside to this revival is the fact that Mouthfuls tends to get left off the setlist. Granted, I know it's been [checks Google] 13 years since its release, but I can name several fantastic tracks from the record, and only one was played. That track was "When U Love Somebody," of course, as the finale. The records that came after Mouthfuls, including the new one, were well represented, but as an old-timer, I would love to hear "Rainbow Sign" (and others).
Before I sign off, I'll repeat again the story of seeing Fruit Bats at Bottom of the Hill
» the cub who washed out in the flood
» she couldn't dance but she wanted to
» waiting for the rainbow sign