MUSIC NEWS
At Crossroads KC, Old 97s attack their material with vibrant intensity
07/30/2010

from Kansas City Star at kansascity.com

The 16-year history of the Texas-born Old 97s follows a trajectory well worn by other bands: Start out with plenty of youthful energy and fire in the belly and gradually grow more mellow and/or pop-oriented.

For their Thursday night’s performance at Crossroads KC, the alt-country quartet shrugged off its pop trappings and attacked their material with vibrant intensity.

The first sign of the evening’s energy came on the second song, “Dance With Me.” Recorded as a pop song for their latest album, 2008’s “Blame It On Gravity,” guitarist Ken Bethea tore into the main riff like a buzz saw, pushing the tempo to nearly double its original speed. When bass player Murry Hammond was given the mic shortly thereafter for a cover of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” the band pushed and prodded the laid-back vocalist.

Flanked by Bethea and Hammond in nearly matching red plaid shirts, photogenic singer/frontman Rhett Miller shook his hips like Elvis behind his Stratocaster. He yelped, yowled and screamed his way through the 90 minute set list that featured as many cuts from their first album — four — as their latest.

The band’s third album, “Too Far To Care,” is widely considered its best. They treated the crowd to six cuts, or nearly half the album and they consistently received the biggest responses of the night. “Big Brown Eyes” and “Barrier Reef” got everyone dancing and Miller took an audience request of “Niteclub” during the encore.

Miller seemed to enjoy playing the scorned lover and dumping extra venom into such lines as “I hope you crash your momma’s car” and “Thought so much about suicide/parts of me have already died” on back-to-back trips down lonely street in “Lonely Holiday” and “Wish the Worst.” Two songs later, on “Melt Show,” he emphatically kicked the air in the chorus.

Bethea spurred Miller’s energy, leaping into the air at the start of “The Fool,” dropping a Dick Dale-style guitar solo into “Smokers,” another Hammond vocal showcase, and adding a nice countermelody to the most delicate and upbeat song in their catalog, “Question.” His solo leading into “Timebomb,” the traditional closer, turned the already fast number into something like a punk song.

(read full story on kansascity.com)

 





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