January 20, 2011
Galaxy Theatre, Santa Ana
Playing sweaty clubs and smoky bars for the greater part of seventeen years, Old 97's have refined their hard driving alternative country sound into a formidable live show. Touring in support of their latest album The Grande Theatre, Volume One, Old 97's came on stage holding nothing back. Rhett Miller came to the front of the stage and slashed out the chords to the title track of the new album.
Conjuring up some sonic magic, "The Magician" enchanted the audience with its footstomping rhythm and galloping tempo. Holding his Guild bass up high, Murry Hammond methodically plucked away the notes for "Niteclub," rumbling the floor of the Galaxy. Hammond would give Miller's vocals a rest by singing "You Smoke Too Much." Ken Bethea had a small arsenal of guitars and switched between various Fender Telecasters and Gretsch guitars for various twangy tones.
Miller had already worked up a fine sweat belting out the vocals for "No Baby" and occasionally attacked his guitar with a windmill motion. It was exciting to hear "Champaign, Illinois" due to the fact that my favorite band Hum is from the aforementioned town. Name checking another location, "W Tx. Teardrops" had a rip roaring drumbeat laid down by Phillip Peeples.
Keeping with the theme, "State of Texas" was layered with honeycombed vocal harmonies. Bethea dialed up some trippy tremolo guitar noise for "Stoned" that spun some heads in the room. The sentimental moment of the evening was when Miller called up his friend Adam to the stage who proceeded to propose to his girlfriend Chelsea. After a resounding "Yes!" Miller then charged into the appropriately titled "Question."
Hammond returned to vocal duties for "Smokers," while Bethea came to the very edge of the stage to shred inches from the faces in the audience. "Four Leaf Clover" had the band chugging away at top speed, not missing a beat. Kicking things up a notch, "Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)" had the crowd in the pit jumping up and down and singing along. The final explosion of the night was a rousing version of "Timebomb."
Langhorne Slim turned in a captivating opening set backed by a thumping upright bass, dancing keys and steady drumming. Slim entertained the audience by jumping into the gathered and doing push ups while posing for a cell phone picture with one fan. Slim's set was received very well.
Personal Bias: I discovered the Old 97's when I saw Rhett Miller open for the Get Up Kids a number of years ago.
Crowd: Lots of female fans close to the stage swooning over Rhett Miller.
Overheard in the Crowd: Langhorne Slim asked the crowd "Finish your steaks and let's dance on the tables."
Random Notebook Dump: The lighting technician at the Galaxy Theatre was so impressive that Langhorne Slim commended his efforts in the middle of his set.
"The Grand Theatre"
"You Smoke Too Much"
"Buick City Complex"
"State of Texas"
"You Were Born To Be in Battle"
"The Dance Class"
"Going, Going, Gone"
"Let The Train Whistle Blow"
"Four Leaf Clover"
"Won't Be Home"
"Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)"