July 01, 2004

IN A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN

Bobby Bare Jr.gif

Bobby Bare Jr. focuses on recent releases

Bobby Bare Jr. and the Young Criminals' Starvation League/Tom Heinl/The Damn Lovelys
Maxwell's -- Hoboken, N.J.
June 23, 2004

Hot on the heels of his new release, From the End of Your Leash (Bloodshot Records), Bobby Bare Jr. arrived in New Jersey late last month for yet another stop on what seems to be a never-ending tour.

With his microphone entangled in some sort of flowery vine, and the singer-songwriter-guitarist himself decked out in an uncomfortable-looking pinstripe suit, Bare started the set alone with a super-fast verse of Shel Silverstein's "True Story" that seemed to be more of a vocal stretching than an actual beginning to the show. Bare's band then joined in for "The Monk at the Disco," a typically quirky tune from his last album, Young Criminals' Starvation League, which, coincidentally, is the name of his group.

The first part of the set was dominated by songs from this album, much to the delight of the receptive crowd. The audience seemed most enthusiastic for "I'll Be Around," a poppy sing-along that's just as catchy on the first listen as it is after repeated plays.

After about four songs, Bare and his Criminals finally tapped into his newer material, starting with "Valentine." The song brings together the best of what this bunch does. It is both a bizarre snapshot of love gone wrong and a dynamic, bass-driven stage workout that can prompt fans to bob their heads and scratch them as well.

Never one to be pigeonholed, Bare settled it down a bit for another new song, "Visit Me in Music City," a semi-autobiographical, tongue-in-cheek love letter to his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. The vivid imagery and folky, acoustic strumming brought some audible chuckles from the crowd. Such lines as "Roy Acuff cut off my umbilical/and tied me off with his yo-yo string" may indeed hold some truth, considering Bare is the son of country legend Bobby Bare.

In between songs, Bare kept his stage banter quick, occasionally acknowledging his band mates or taking a well-deserved shot at fellow alt-country outcast Ryan Adams for his lackluster touring habits. He seamlessly rolled from this barb right into "Dig Down." This song name-dropped some legitimate musical legends, such as The Who's Pete Townshend and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, and blames them for giving his generation no choice but to imitate their idols. If this sentiment had come from the pipes of a current chart-topper, it could be interpreted as sour grapes. But delivered from Bare's crackle-and-drawl style, the comment hit its mark.

The only setback was Bare's unwillingness to play any of the material from his late-'90s outfit, Bare Jr. All requests from the crowd for these songs were ignored. This was most likely due to there being no original Bare Jr. members in his current touring lineup, or possibly the result of his apparent "been there, done that" attitude. The audience members who called out early and often for these tunes should have noticed the obvious eye-rolling from Bare at the sound of their screams for "You Blew Me Off." Even so, it could have been special to hear him tear into a deep album track or two.

The main set ended with the hypnotic bass groove of "Mother F***er," an all-too-rare lament from a man who doesn't want to be the bad guy. The song ended with the usual downpour of feedback, which seemed to float around the strong, repetitive bass line. Bare did muster up enough energy to have a go at Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize," but only for the chorus and refrain before he called it a night.

Opening the evening were two distinctly different acts. First up was Hoboken's own Damn Lovelys. The twangy four-piece band was fronted by vocalist-guitarist-music critic Meredith Ochs, who did a good job showcasing the bandís new album, Trouble Creek (Dren Records). The band even found time to squeeze in a charged-up version of Warren Zevon's "Carmelita."

The night's other opener was a curveball. Imagine a stage setup with no real band equipment, and in its place a mock living room, complete with a rocking chair, lamp and a painting of an elderly gentleman. Now add to that a four-track cassette player and that describes to scene set by Tom Heinl. He used his stage props and fifth-grade journal to craft what might be the closest thing to a performance by the late comedian Andy Kaufman. The only real difference was that unlike Kaufman, who seemed to delight in the uncomfortable feeling his act produced, Heinl wasn't in it for the cringe factor. His songs, which he sang along to karaoke-style, and his stories were funny and charming. He found a way to hold the audience's attention without the risk of coming off goofy.

By Mike Madden

Posted by medleyville at July 1, 2004 04:26 PM
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