Sunday, September 28, 2008

Silver Jews at Echoplex, September 26

Silver Jews made their second Los Angeles appearance ever on Friday (September 26, 2008) at the Echoplex, and it was spellbinding. Suspenseful, frightening, and fraught with great rewards.

We got right up front and when the band came on they took us on a strange and vaguely unsettling trip throught the mind of David Berman. He begins seemingly emotion-free, as he drones into the microphone. But as the words become clear and his delivery intensifies you willingly follow him.

The band is so much more powerful and rocking than on the recordings, they surprise with their amazing sound. The country influence receeds to the background and they really rock out. I haven't been able to get into the new CD, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, as easily as Tanglewood Numbers, but hearing the songs live I could really appreciate them and now I love the new CD. They play so beautifully, the music seems richer, fuller and grander, creating a powerful background for David's ironic and probing poetry and his legendary storytelling.

David Berman, nattily dressed in a brown suit, tall and thin, is a commanding presence. It was great to be up so close, because he comes right out to the edge of the stage to sing to you and often engages in eye to eye contact with his audience. Especially after he removed his glasses and you could look right into his eyes. He seemed to me more relaxed (less tense?) than when I saw him at the Fonda on his first concert tour two years ago on September 12, 2006. But I wasn't as close there.

I would decribe him as mechanically challenged as he wrestled with microphones, stands and wires throughout, but without (except once) losing his vocal contribution. His wife, Cassie, provides a calming and soothing presence for both David and the audience, contributing superb vocal support in addition to her musicianship.

His voice is somewhere between a grumble and a growl, but as soothing as a purr. David Berman took us through "What is Not But Could Be If", Strange Victory, Strange Defeat", Aloysius, Bluegrass Drummer" and "Open Field" from Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. "Punks In the Beerlight", "K-Hole" and "I'm Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You" represented Tanglewood Numbers, and random early works rounded out the set.

The whole show flew by in record time. I was floored when I realized they played an hour. It seemed like fifteen minutes! The crowd was overjoyed and David and the band seemed very pleased. For all his awkwardness, he was extremely charming.

I didn't see anyone I knew there, except I was real happy to see Rob Danson of Death To Anders. I should have known he'd be a Silver Jews fan. There's a similar musical and lyrical aesthetic at work in both bands.

This was another very special show in a week full of very special shows. How much can one person stand!


No comments: