Review Baltimore gig 08-11-2006
Scritti Politti at Club Sonar, Baltimore, Maryland November 8, 2006
Well, the Baltimore show was last night, and words cannot express how wonderful a night it was. My fiancee Beth and I showed up just in time to catch opener Jeffrey Lewis’ closing number, an hilarious & catchy little ditty called “Creeping Brain” that made me wish I’d shown up earlier. The lead singer (Mr. Lewis, I would assume) had filled a sketch pad with visual interpretations of the lyrics that greatly added to the experience.
Before describing Scritti Politti’s set, I would like to add that club Sonar was a very nice establishment with a polite staff and better sound than I’m used to in such a small club. There were only a few dozen people turned out for the show, but the stage was positioned in a location visible from most anywhere in the room, so people were able to spread out quite a bit (although it did seem to unnerve the band a little–at one point between songs Green mumbled into the mic, “say something–it’s too quiet in here”). Even though only a small crowd was there, it was an interesting mix of younger and older fans, perhaps a few more young ones than I would have expected. Young or old, they were respectful, polite and very supportive–as Green left the stage a woman even ran up and handed him a bouquet of flowers
Anyway, as Scritti took the stage it became apparent that the stage wasn’t quite large enough for the band and the five keyboards and two drumsets, so Dave, the “utility” player (read: multi-instrumentalist) had to stand on a wobbly riser to the left of the stage for most of the concert. This made for some of the only between-song banter (which early in the set Green described as leaving much to be desired–but the audience seemed forgiving), when Dave announced that it was a bit like log-rolling. The band was in excellent form, and there were too many fine points to number, although I’d have to say that hearing “Word Girl” live was the highlight for myself.
What surprised me most was the considerable power that the band added to the newer songs, without sacrificing any of the finesse that one hears on the albums. Specifically, “Come Clean,” “E 11th Nuts,” “Boom Boom Bap,” and “Die Alone” sounded much better live than I would have been lead to expect, knowing the studio versions, that is. Although all the musicians were outstanding, I think Rhodri deserves special mention. Having seen two keyboardists through most of the video footage available on Bibbly-o-tek, it was a little surprising realizing that the bulk of those parts are done by one set of hands. Also, his harmony vocals complemented Green’s lead beautifully. I’m fairly fuzzy on the set list, but it was much like the others on this tour: “Snow in Sun” as an opener, “Robin Hood” next. The set closed with “Wood Beez,” with “Petrococadollar” and “D to the O” for the encore.
The only minor disappointment of the evening was not getting to hear “Am I Right in Thinking” live, but one really can’t complain, especially considering how worn out the band seemed (and Green claimed a throat infection). I had been hoping to rent a portable digital recorder for the concert, but Sonar does not allow audio- or videotaping. I was able to stop dancing long enough to squeeze off a few shots, but except for the last half dozen–due to a misunderstanding between myself and Herr Camera–they’re rather blurry.
Visually, the band also had quite an interesting look going on. Green was dressed in a scruffy low-key manner, with jeans and a hooded sweatshirt (with a Scritti button, of course), but the rest of the band had a somewhat distinguished look to them. Dickie, the guitarist, had flared pants and a silk shirt (it gave him a very Phil Manzanera-type look), and Frank (?), the drummer, wore a vest. If anyone who reads this site has doubts about going to see them live, please PLEASE do–it is absolutely worth it. Green and the rest turn out some fine danceable music, with a lot more valid funkiness than one might expect, and getting to share such an intimate setting with them made for the most ironically romantic evening.