By: Mark Butler
moe. :: 01.30.09 & 01.31.09 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO
moe. deserves a bonus. A few bucks (billions or trillions, you decide) from the government's bailout plan should suffice. Because unlike the arrogant chaps on Wall Street, this band generates legitimate value, bringing culture (yes, rock n' roll is culture!) to the big cities and the heartland of America. The validity of this was evident after two expansive nights of music at The Fillmore in Denver.
Otherworldly, dark, and dreamy was moe.'s sound the first night. As an artistic piece, the show was not cohesive but there were some five or six mesmerizing moments (as in jam band extended moments) of sheer beauty. "The Pit" made for proper foreshadowing in Set One. Set Two opened with standards ("Brent Black," "YOY" and "George"), and then the band descended hard and heavy with the not-oft-heard "Runaway Overlude." Its martial chorus (The blood, the bayonets, the cold of death, the cannonballs...) rocked the house, mustering the crowd and energetically bringing the band together, arguably for the first time that night. Not an ardent fan of The Police's "Invisible Sun," I nonetheless found guitarist Al Schnier's noodle around it transcendent. Mr. Schnier played with restraint, something I wish he'd do more often, as his work is quite potent in its understated form. "Invisible Sun" segued into the heavy, lugubrious "Opium," a song that doesn't seem to wear thin. It is durable as it is cautionary. From there, the sun rose on the boppy "She." This time, Schnier went off on an original, heroic riff that stopped chatty chicks and dudes mid-sentence.
If night one was Neptunian, night two was Jovian - bright, large and colorful, from the very first note of Chuck Garvey's slide guitar on "Queen of Everything" to the last note of fitting encore "The Road." Difficult for any band to do, both sets were solid, crisp and sustained their arc of intensity. "Not Coming Down" into "Wormwood" in the first set delivered on the celestial ecstasy that moe. fans come to expect from Garvey, who was bending notes on his temperamental Strat. Then, the moe. train took off full steam, blowing through town with a "32 Things" that had folks stomping and going giddy-up; I'm not even a big fan of the song, but it was awesome. Samba-driven "Buster" got the ladies twirling, and a tight, manly "Bearsong" finished an impeccable first set.
A second set anywhere near that first set would be plenty good, but a rested moe., fresh from several months of home cooking and sleeping in their own beds, meant there was more where that came from. Set Two began with a perky, non-indulged "Rebubula," followed by "Crab Eyes" and "Down Boy." Then, the band sent a jolt through the crowd by covering Gov't Mule's "Thorazine Shuffle." Garvey took the vocals and held his own on this freaky-good version, and Rob Derhak, svelt after his time off, was swinging that Allen Woody bassline and grinning large. An old school "Lazarus" finished the second set on a raging high note, with the discordant twin leads, a la the Allman Brothers, just blowing the roof off The Fillmore.
|Derhak & Schnier by Dave Jackson|
Notable from the guitarist's corner were Garvey's choice of the Strat in the first set (I can't think when Mr. Garvey last coaxed those distinctive, perpetually fresh tones from the instrument that was once his bread and butter) and Schnier's stunning new face as a guitarist. While Schnier's tendency during solos to furiously shred pentatonic and then finish with an intense crescendo of tritones has always drawn frenzy and applause from moe.'s fans, he gave himself the space this weekend to craft solos that possessed beautiful trajectory and explored more uncommon modalities as much as they utilized his already impressive and well honed chops as a rock guitarist.
Which brings us back to the bonus for moe. If the Denver shows are a harbinger of things to come, I think that's where I'd like my share of gov't bailout tax dollars to go. Culture has never felt so good, so timely, so valuable or so medicinal. Time for a bonus for moe.? Seems like a good investment to me.
moe. has a few more dates scheduled soon; details available here.
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