By Andy DelGiudice
A multiple night run of Dr. Dog shows never yields a repeat performance. I attended both nights of last week’s annual two night stand at the 9:30 Club – Thursday night as a civilian and Friday night as an elated photographer – and both nights featured a set list that both dove deep into old material and presented their latest and greatest.
The multiple singer-songwriter approach may account for their growth. The live show provides two distinct performances packed into one presentation, so – if you think about it – seeing them two nights in a row is equivalent to four mini shows. Or in the case of their recent eight night stand in NYC, sixteen consecutive performances.
The headliners were not the only unique elements of those two nights at the 9:30 Club. Local favorites US Royalty set an aggressive, high octane tone on Thursday night with the best set I have ever seen from them. I don’t think I have seen a more complimentary ticket since Dr Dog was paired with The Head and the Heart a number of years ago. US Royalty simply brought it on Thursday night and blew away both their established fans and a whole new crop of followers that heeded BYT’s advice to show up early.
Spirit Family Reunion brought an altogether different groove to the early portion of Friday night, with their rollicking rhythm section and passionate, gritty vocals that seemed to be lifted straight from the best southern barn dance. I was having such a great time that my brain almost instinctively started to prepare itself for some fresh prawns and a bayou BBQ pork spit.
Dr. Dog drew from all aspects of their catalog on both nights and their old material still sounds fresh while their ever evolving new songs feel right at home amongst the classic standards. Thursday night had a very playful manner to it with a set list primarily comprised of new pieces with rare singles and B-sides from their early years. Lead singer Toby Leaman went so far as to note halfway through the show how strange the set list was, yet still acknowledged how much fun it is as a performer to be able to mix things up.
Friday night included more traditional favorites and a particularly touching moment. Bassist Toby Leaman’s young kids were hanging out on the backstage rafters for much of the show, checking out dad and dancing away with mom while wearing some gigantic earmuffs. Eventually, Toby could no longer resist the appeal of his family and took a wireless mic up to the balcony to belt out the last of their set-finishing masterpiece, “Lonesome,” alongside his son and wife; a perfect cure to the the songs’ lyrics about the despair of isolation. An uplifting answer to the songwriters ills that possibly lead to its creation.