FEB. 23, 2006
The Hideout, Chicago
After raving last year about Devin Davis‘ album, Lonely People of the World, Unite! (and being the only critic to vote for his song “Giant Spiders” as one of the songs of the year in the Pazz & Jop poll), I finally got around to seeing him perform in concert. Too bad I missed the earlier Wednesday-night shows in his February residency at the Hideout. I would have liked to see him play with a full band.
Still, it was entertaining and impressive to see what he could do as a one-man band. Davis used the same sort of looping pedals that Andrew Bird uses to build multiple-track songs in concert, right in front of the audience’s eyes. Davis clobbered on the drums for some songs, creating slightly off-kilter percussion tracks, and then played on top of those beats with guitar and harmonica. The drumming loops had some fun moments, but it was more impressive when Davis used the looping pedals to harmonize with his own vocals, or to create a droning chord with his harmonica. He also played Theremin, demonstrating nice pitch control on the notoriously tricky instrument as he added “God Bless America” at the end of one song.
Davis opened with an unusual cover, Wilco’s “At Least That’s What You Said” — perhaps a nod to the fact that one member of Wilco, Mikael Jorgensen, had just opened for him. Davis apologized, “I hope that wasn’t too cheesy.” No, it wasn’t cheesy at all. It was a shadow of the Wilco original, but still a nice tribute to Chicago’s best-known band. Davis made a good attempt at duplicating the guitar/drum solo at the end of the song by going wild on the harmonica.
He also played a new song on a various-artists compilation from Kill Rock Stars, and he also did a cover of the Mississippi John Hurt song “Blessed Be the Word of the Lord,” noting, “I’m not very relgious, but it’s a good fucking song.” For the most part he played the songs from Lonely People. It was a little ramshackle, maybe not the best introduction to Davis for newcomers, but further proof of his mad-scientist capabilities.
JOHN KLOS (formerly of The Boas) was the first performer of the night, playing rather sleepy but pretty songs on keyboards and guitar, backed up by a second guitarist. I enjoyed Kloss’ music, but it would be nice to hear fuller arrangments of some of the songs. At one point, when the music threatened to get upbeat, he commented, “Pop songs? That’s up to you.”
MIKAEL JORGENSEN of Wilco was second on the bill. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Jorgensen is best known as the guy with the laptop who has incorporated sampled noise into the Wilco concert sound, but he also plays keyboard. In his solo show tonight, he was pretty impressive on both keyboards and guitar as he sang pop tunes — ranging from Randy Newman-style numbers on the piano to Flaming Groovies-ish power pop on guitar. Backed by a bassist and drummer, Jorgensen showed that he’s a fair vocalist — nothing special, but nothing bad, either. His songs show promise. Damn, Wilco sure has a lot of talented members.