As I said in my recent review of the CD by Dead Man’s Bones, this is one peculiar project. And so it was in concert, too. Dead Man’s Bones came to Schubas Wednesday night (Oct. 21) for two sold-out shows. I think it’s a fair assumption that a high percentage of the crowd turned out because the band includes film actor Ryan Gosling. And need I say that a high percentage of the crowd was female? Gosling could have doing just about anything on the stage, and a good number of these fans probably would have shown up anyway. But, given the way the crowd responded to the songs, it was also clear that these fans have been listened to the Dead Man’s Bones album, which sounds a bit like Daniel Johnston teaming up with a school choir to do a musical about haunted houses. (The vocals are on key more often than Johnston’s, however.)
The songs sounded much the same in the concert, with a chorus of children in white sheets and pale ghost makeup crowding onto the stage and singing many of the choruses, to the delight of the audience. One of the girls in the chorus took part into a miniature drama, involving her falling dead and then singing from behind a backlit sheet. The whole spectacle was campy and quirky to the extreme. Even the opening act, if you can call it that, was an exercise in ironic amateurism: a talent show that included an artist drawing a picture then singing, a belly dancer, and a magician.
I expect some people would find the whole Dead Man’s Bones show a bit precious, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and unlike many of the folks in attendance, I wasn’t even there to moon over Mr. Gosling. (Don’t forget that he has other collaborators in this band, including another singer-songwriter, Zach Shields.) The celebratory show had some of the zany sense of humor and the “let’s try something weird” attitude that animated the Flaming Lips at their best. It was certainly a very memorable night.