Archive for April, 2009

Concert Cliff’s Notes: Brett Dennen, Andrew Bird, Delta Spirit, Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter & Gomez

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

So clearly I’ve been procrastinating, and if I wait until I have time to write reviews of all these shows, nothing will ever get written.  So here’s the whirlwind tour of the shows I’ve seen so far this year:

Brett Dennen – January 30th at the Variety Playhouse


I like this guy, despite the fact that he’s weird looking. He sounded GREAT at this show, and I was happy to see he had lost some weight and got a less-weird haircut (compared to the last time I saw him).  The sound mix was really good, and the band sounded tight.  However, the bastard didn’t play “San Francisco” – the best song on his newest album.  And he DID play “make you go crazy” which is terrible (but less terrible live).  See him if you can, but insist that he play San Francsco.

Andrew Bird – February 4th at the Variety Playhouse


I’ve seen this guy before, but apparently it was pre-blog.  I love his album “…and the mysterious production of eggs,” but I was disappointed the first time I saw him at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.  The disappointment stemmed from three things: 1) he only had one or two other people with him – not enough to flesh out the songs I knew and loved, 2) he was cocky 3) he wouldn’t sing the melodies like they were on the album.

This time he fixed #1 – he had a great band, a cool stage setup, and plenty of sonic reinforcements to dish out a fat sound.  In some early songs he would lay down some violin loops and repeat them and build on them before moving on to guitar and the rest of the band.  This was really impressive, and sounded great.  Then he would whistle in tandem with his playing a xylophone (or something similar).  These were all very cool and impressive, but he wore these tricks out by the end of the show.  Problems #2 and 3 remained though.  He still seems to like himself more than I like him.  He also didn’t play much of “Eggs” and when he did, he improvised the vocal melodies way too much.  Just sing the song you bastard!!

Bottom line: I love his albums, I enjoyed the show, but he rubs me the wrong way and I think I’d rather listen to him without having to look at him.

Delta Spirit – February 25th at the Drunken Unicorn


The Drunken Unicorn – how F’n cool of a venue name is that?

The good parts of this show:

  • The venue name & size – just right.
  • The pre-show meet-up place = bookstore pub = awesome atmosphere, food, and beers.
  • The first opener – Dawes.  Email me if you want to sample a track.  They were better live than their album, but the album still has a couple great tracks.
  • The Delta Spirit’s set – great, full of energy
  • The song Trashcan – the distinctive rhythm is actually played on an old-school trashcan lid (think Oscar the grouch).

Not-as-good parts of the show:

  • Second opener – I forget the name, but they were (clearly) forgettable
  • The fake Red Bull served at the Drunken Unicorn – not kind on the stomach
  • The LATE start time of the headliner on a weeknight – I don’t think they started until around midnight, and I’m old.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – March 8th at the Tabernacle


I got offered a ticket on fairly short notice.  I saw this group once before in Oakland and it was uber-mellow.  Really just too mellow.  This time was still an all-sitting-down show, but it was a little more lively.  Luckily my ticket benefactor (Todd) also saved us awesome seats.  They put on a great show of beautiful music, but I don’t know RA’s catalog that well.   The crowd seemed to absolutely love every second of it, but I only liked it.  I left early.  I guess I’m lame.  It was really good, I just wasn’t feeling it that night.

Josh Ritter & Gomez – March 24th at Center Stage

This show was kind of a whim – friends who like Gomez talked me into it, and I like JR’s “girl in the war” a lot, so I figured I’d check it out.  I also really like Center Stage.


I found Josh Ritter captivating.  For an opening act he did an amazing job of keeping the crowd attentive and quiet.  He really drew everyone in and held our collective attention with every song.  On top of that he seemed to be having the time of his life, which was also really compelling and contagious.  He sounded great too.  He was a bit of a goof ball on stage, but he was also good with his crowd banter.  Still, that bastard didn’t play “girl in the war.”  What was he thinking?

Gomez was fair.


There’s my Q1 recap for ’09.  I do realize I’m pretty damn lucky to see that many shows.  I hope you’re jealous.