Surprise Me Mr. Davis/The Low Anthem :: 08.27.09 :: The Narrows Center for the Arts :: Fall River, MA
The Low Anthem started the night with a very mellow mix of songs from their latest album, Oh My God Charlie Darwin, including “To the Ghost Who Write History Books” and “Ticket Taker” with Ben Knox Miller confessing into the microphone while sitting on a stool with his hat brim slung low. The Low Anthem has had a whirlwind year, after being signed by Nonesuch (U.S.) and Bella Union (Europe) they have toured both continents extensively. However, this night was special to them and even with Miller’s road weary voice and the rest of the band’s fatigue they weren’t going to let anything stop them from giving the crowd their all. Why so special, you ask? Number one, because the Narrows was the first club that ever booked them outside of their home base of Providence, RI and secondly because Surprise Me Mr. Davis was the first band that ever took them on the road; so they got to pay their respects to some huge catalysts in their career.
After some rockers, The Low Anthem’s set distilled down to what they do best – honest, simple, organic folk music. After starting out the night with newer songs, The Low Anthem finished their set with some oldies like “This God Damn House,” which saw Miller bust out his cell phone trick where he whistles into two cell phones that have called each other in order to create a brilliant, ghostly feedback effect, and “Senorita,” a sweet ballad about a beauty with dust brown skin and her admirer that follows her around Spain with offerings of “cheap liquor if I can’t afford a feast.” With only two albums under their belt and 100-plus shows a year it’s no secret that the Anthem plays these songs all the time. During “Ballad of the Broken Bones” I was wondering if Miller thinks about the lyric, “I have been all over the whole goddamn world and over the world am I,” any differently now that he’s not only been around but also probably played that song while he was there.
After a great version of “As Long As There’s One of Us Standing,” in which the members of The Low Anthem trickled onstage, the bands played a three-song mini set together. The mini-set kicked off with The Low Anthem’s new tune “Sally Where’d You Get Your Liquor From” before segueing into the classic anti-amorous SMMD sing-along “I Hate Love.” The show closer was an inspiring take on a classic comedic number from the 1940’s. Written by Tim Spencer and popularized by Red Ingle (and even played on The Muppet Show by Peter Sellers), “Cigareets, Whuskey and Wild Wild Women” is a foreboding warning to the pitfalls of vices. The song has a familiar chord progression but with eight musicians adding little parts, including Jocie Adams’ belted harmonies and Benevento’s mysterious melodica, proved to be a sum greater than its parts. As the chorus – “Cigareets, Whuskey and Wild Wild Women/ they’ll drive you crazy/ they’ll drive you insane” – slowly faded out the crowd kept hooting and hollering and floor stomping for more, so much so it recalled the sound of a pep rally echoing off wooden gymnasium walls. There was no way we weren’t getting an encore.
All in all, it was really a wonderful night with two bands doing what they love for people that love what they do. The amount of camaraderie and respect between the musicians and concertgoers is unrivaled within the Surprise Me Mr. Davis family tree. While The Low Anthem are still wet behind the ears, so to speak, they are maturing fast, and with a taste of new songs and reworked older songs infiltrating their repertoire it seems these guys have a lot more up their sleeve.
The Low Anthem Setlist:
To The Ghosts Who Write History Books, Ticket Taker, Charlie Darwin, new song (Vines?), To Ohio, Don’t Let Nobody Ever Turn You Around, new song (Highwire man?), Home I’ll Never Be, This God Damn House, The Ballad of Broken Bones, Senorita, Cage the Songbird, new song (Blind Walk the Blind?)
Surprise Me Mr. Davis Setlist:
Introduction > Tombstone, If You Knew, Emily Green, Sissyfuss, Sill Like a Goose, Nowhere From here To Go, Roses & Bottles, Rubber Ball, As Long As There’s One Of Us Standing^, Sally Where’d You Get Your Liquor from^, I Hate Love^, Cigareets & Whuskey and Wild Wild Women^
E: Jam > Everything Must Go, England^ > crowd clap jam^ > Home Away From Home^
^ = with all members of The Low Anthem
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