By: Joseph Carver
Luke Doucet :: 07.10.08 :: The Ark :: Ann Arbor, MI
On this evening, a fight broke out on the main stage at The Ark. On one side, weighing in at about 120 pounds soaking wet was guitar slinger Luke Doucet. On the other side was an oversized hollow body Gretsch with the name "White Falcon." It was back and forth for the better part of an hour, and in the end the select few who came out early to see this pair were declared the unanimous winners.
Doucet, a Nova Scotia native and former guitarist for Sarah McLachlan took the stage in support of his new solo release, Blood's Too Rich, with backup band, The White Falcon. From the moment he plugged in, it was clear that his live show was going to be a more guitar driven experience than the record. Doucet opened with "Longhaul Driver," opting for a surf rock driven solo intro before heading into the song about life on the road. The live version came like a blast from the stage – a signal to the crowd that this was not to be a typical hushed Ark affair.
With a capable rhythm guitarist in wife Melissa McLelland the White Falcons left Doucet free to roam with his guitar. Next, on "Blood's Too Rich," we got a taste of the three-part harmony between Doucet, McLelland and White Falcon bass player Rick Levesque. Again, the Gretsch played star as Doucet grimaced each time it released reverb. He is so animated while playing that it was hard to take your eyes off of him. At times it looked like love between he and his White Falcon, at other times it looked like war. Both results played spectacularly in the exquisite and storied Ark.
Doucet introduced "The Day Rick Danko Died" as a song about "one of his favorite bass players." The White Falcon band sounded like a honky tonk machine while Doucet told the tale of an old guitar player mourning the loss of Danko in a Woodstock bar. Storytelling continued as Doucet spoke about relocating to Nashville and being skeptical of the music business before introducing "Motor Bike," a song co-written by singer- songwriter Mike Plume. The simple song about a midlife crisis brought the crowd to a hush as Doucet's delivery turned into barely more than a whisper before being joined again by McLelland on the chorus. Despite Doucet's proclivity to turn and perform to his wife, he spent a great amount of time front and center, displaying true guitar chops for the attentive crowd.
The highlight of the abbreviated set came when Doucet told the crowd that growing up his dream was to travel, adding that in that dream he was always in Cleveland. Once the laughter died down, he introduced "Cleveland" with the story of being on tour and alone in Ohio and catching Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch. The song has so many insider references to Ohio's history that it's difficult to believe he never lived there, and it possessed a transfixing quality as he sang of road boredom, loneliness and love. As the song worked towards its solo, McLelland picked up an original '52 Telecaster that was sitting unused up to that point and the two shared center stage.
"First Day In A New Home Town," a Jayhawks-esque track from the new release, would end up being the last Doucet song of the evening. A track inspired presumably by Doucet's relocation to Nashville, it was an impressive mix of alt-country and the surf rock guitar work that Doucet naturally leans toward. Harmony and solo interchanges that Mark Olson and Gary Louris would be proud of gave way to the most vocal appreciation the crowd showed all night.
With the warning that there was only time for one more song, Doucet's mention of his wife's solo record led to a chorus of demands for a McLelland to lead a number. The obliging bandleader and loving husband gave the spotlight to the very capable McLelland, who closed the show with the country themed "Glen Rio." The 300 or so in attendance gave more than the obligatory applause and appeared to register their pleasure at the merchandise table as well.
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