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The dBs; Maxwell's in Hoboken; 9.19.05
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ask for Jill
Big Brown Eyes
Happenstance
Black & White
Hang Around With You (new Stamey)
Purple Hose
Lonely Is as Lonely Does
If and When
Molly Says
She’s Not Worried >
Living a Lie >
Dynamite
Cycles per Second
World to Cry
I’m In Love
Love is for Lovers
Neverland

That Time is Gone (new Holsapple)
Something Real (new Stamey)
Amplifier

*************************************

It was déjà vu all over again for the very first time as the dBs pulled into Hoboken’s teeny tiny Maxwell’s club for the first of two nights last evening. Roman Candle opened with a serviceable set, and they were well-received considering the anticipation building in the house for the main attraction.

The dB’s hit at about 10:10, augmented by Andy Burton on keyboards; my friend Henry tells me he is the band leader for NYC’s popular “The Beat Goes On” series. As the above setlist indicates, the show was largely similar to the recent Chicago gigs, although I think “I’m in Love” was new to the set.

The first four songs were jaw-droppingly good, in large part because the shock of seeing these guys play these songs had not yet worn off nor sunk in. “Ask for Jill” was almost a collective musical orgasm, and “Big Brown Eyes” wasn’t far behind. “Black and White” was ripping good fun, having moved up in the set from Chicago. Holsapple’s voice has aged, taken on a smoky, grainy, deeper throaty quality; he’s kind of been Keith Richards-ized. This is not a good thing or a bad thing; it is just a thing to be reckoned with, and he reckoned with it splendidly, singing the old songs in a comfortable register and imbuing them with the kind of aging that generally does good things for wine, cheese and cigars. And, it turns out, power pop. I don’t know if the songs were played in the original keys, but I’m guessing they were.


The twin guitars were something to behold, and while Stamey and Holsapple were vexed all night by monitor woes, from out in the house (dead center, about five people back) they sounded great; not hi-fidelity, but all raucous jangly sheets of pop. I found myself trying to figure out why a band like the dB’s is so good, when so many can assay this kind of music and come off sounding generic. What is the formula? And I think it ends up being simple: good songs, harmonies (it is more difficult than it seems to sing this well together), and economical playing. While each guitarist took leads (and Stamey was the more flashy, especially on the janglo-mental “Purple Hose”), the real guitar heroics were in the chording, the way the guitars provided the fabric, the matter of the songs.

Will Rigby is a force of nature on the drums. He does such a good job of providing the rhythm and driving the band that Gene Holder on bass is freed up; his bass playing seems to provide less of a groove per se, and more of a wall of texture. Maybe it was the room’s acoustics, but the shimmering tones created by the bass added a richness and density to the music, the overtones injecting melodic qualities. It is Rigby’s drive that allows Holder to lay on the texture, which makes the whole band sound richer; an intertwined ripple effect. The jangle of the Fender guitars, the bass sheets of sound on the bottom, and the vocals all combine to make a breathing, melodic, ringing sound that suits the songs to a tee.

Some of the live reproductions were surprisingly robust given the production of the original tracks. “She’s Not Worried,” which always sounded like a Pet Sounds or Sergeant Pepper tune to me, featured Burton’s keyboard work, and was splendid. This tune kicked off a late-set highlight, giving way immediately into “Living a Lie,” which in turn segued directly into “Dynamite.” Trebly shimmering joy. Both the latter period dB’s songs came off well; “Molly Says” and especially “Love is for Lovers,” on which Stamey joined the fray and jousted with Holsapple on the break like he’d been playing it all along. “Neverland” was the prefect release of a set closer.

The encores featured two new tunes. Holsapple’s song, which is probably called “That Time is Gone,” is a basic 12-bar pop. The new Stamey song, which might be called "Something Real," is a wistful, smooth slice of ear candy with sweet harmonies on the chorus, and which features a false stop and coda. “Amplifier” was an almost inevitable final encore, with the two guitarists putting it to bed with a nice flourish. No one would have complained if they’d played another hour. And perhaps the most amazing thing about the old songs is that they didn’t sound old; especially remarkable because the band’s first two albums (which comprised most of the show) sounded old when they came out, which was part of the charm. When I first heard Stands for Decibels I thought it could have been some long last pop-psychedelic classic from 1968.

I think step one in a successful band reunion is to reclaim the catalog from history, shake the nostalgia out of it, re-inhabit the songs in a fresh way, and lay the groundwork for new material. Mission soundly accomplished. The dB’s have lost nothing save for some hair. Holsapple’s new voice doesn’t have the register of his early 80s voice, but that didn’t stop him from singing the hell out of everything. He and Stamey go together like peanut butter and jelly; they’re sweet and salty and they stick to the roof of your mouth.

Photo credits: b.f.

************

By the way, Peter Holsapple is a New Orleans musician, as is Alex Chilton, who figures prominently in the early days of Stamey's career. The dBs have a great cover of "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted," which you can download if you go here and make a donation to the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. Last night they mentioned that they'd raised $8K so far. A good cause; check it out.

Labels:


Posted by: --josh-- @ 12:01 PM  


3 Comments:
At 9/22/2005 3:32 PM, Blogger RoxiticusDH said...   

Did they find Alex Chilton? I read a couple weeks ago that he was missing.


At 9/22/2005 4:24 PM, Blogger --josh-- said...   

Last I heard was, yes, Chilton has been found.


At 10/02/2005 3:09 AM, Blogger FriendlyGuy1212 said...   

Very nice blog, hard to come by these days,

If you have a chance, can you visit my how to play guitar site

It has all guitar related stuff.

Thanks


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