Even back in the 1980s, when The dB’s were going strong with four really cool albums of power-pop music, the band was a little bit under the radar. They were one of those groups that you heard about from obsessive record collectors rather than hearing them on the radio. They were starting to get some attention around 1987, when I saw them opening for R.E.M. at the Assembly Hall in Champaign, but then they broke up shortly after that.
They remained favorites of those obsessive record collectors, however — and in 2005, the original lineup reunited for some gigs, including an appearance at the Hideout Block Party. They started working on a new album. And took seven years doing it. Released this summer, Falling Off the Sky turned out to be a winner, a collection of catchy, clever tunes featuring the voices of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, sounding just about the same as they sounded 30 years ago. (It probably didn’t hurt that a couple of their old-time cohorts, Mitch Easter and Scott Litt, assisted with production.)
Chicago was lucky to get two dB’s shows this week at a great venue, the Hideout — especially lucky considering how this fall “tour” included just one other concert, in St. Louis.
The dB’s seemed like they were having a great deal of fun on Thursday night, as they dug deep into their back catalog for songs including their 1979 single “Black and White” — and of course, popular tracks like “Amplifier” and “Neverland.” They turned down an audience request for “Molly Says,” with Holsapple admitting that the band was neglecting songs from the 1987 album The Sound of Music — a fine record, in my opinion. But they did insert “Big Brown Eyes” into their set after someone yelled out that song title. And at the end of the night, the dB’s rocked out on a cover of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want).”
The Hideout gigs gave dB’s drummer Will Rigby a chance to put his daughter Hazel in the spotlight. As it happens, she lives in Chicago, playing bass and singing with the band Outside World, who opened for the dB’s — playing fuzzy shoegaze rock, reminiscent of a different slice of 1980s rock music. (According to Joshua Klein’s review in the Chicago Tribune, this was apparently the first time Hazel had ever seen her dad’s band in concert.)