Thursday, September 6, 2007

09-05-2007: Okkervil River Storms The Independent

There are so many reasons why I could be skeptical of Okkervil River. Their unassuming attitude, their innocent bewilderment at being put on Conan O'Brien, the heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics, the more earnest than earnest delivery of straight up rock and roll: it all seems so innocent and too good too be true. And yet, it all works. The band simply gets on stage and delivers a fantastic set of rock and roll melodies. Ranging from quiet ballads, to kick ass rockers, to epic tales of woe, the band grabs the audience in a new way with each tune they deliver.

The band hit the stage around 9:45 and delivered a set that started out on the more mellow side: Will Sheff was clad in a suit (that he gradually lose over the course of the night) and crooned ballads under the blue lights.

However, as the show continued, the most recent album's influence came out to show its colors, culminating in what the singer described as "Okkervil River's new anthem": Unless It's Kicks. The song rocked the crowd and left me wondering what the band would do to top it, and finish the show.

The answer is that they dug into the back catalog for some jams of epic proportion. The first was a version of So Come Back I Am Waiting (Black Sheep Boy II) that wore its heart on its sleeve. This type of thing doesn't typically draw me in, but this time it did. The song simply begged to be listened to, and the crowd acted in kind. The band closed with the (much requested) song Westfall, and it was a great way to close out the night: the fans wanted it, the band killed it, and everyone went away sweaty and happy.

So there you go: my first Okkervil River live experience. My impression of the band on record was an aping of 70's Bowie, but Okkervil River delivers something more their own than that. At first I thought of local band Beulah, but as the show continued it grew even more dynamic, to a point where it was recalling most vividly the notorious talent of The Band. While that's saying a lot, it's ultimately not really descriptive enough. In all reality, Okkervil River delivers something that is very distinctively Okkervil River. Go see for yourself.

Okkervil River plays a short set tonight @ 6 at Amoeba Music.

Many more photos on the h.a.d. flickr feed.


Arlen said...

Check out the Solo Demos for 'The Stage Names', also you totally dropped the ball on the headline. "Okkervil River Floods The Independent" or some other similar river based imagery would have been key.