Jeepers, how good are The 1900s? It's been almost two years since I saw them open for Midlake at Mercury Lounge and had kind of forgotten how good they are. And they've gotten better since. Watching last night's fantastic show at Union Hall makes me wonder why I left their album Cold & Kind off my Best of 2007 list.
The 1900s are better live than on record, however, and the warm vibe of Union Hall really fits in with their psychedelic/baroque take on Fleetwood Mac. (They even covered Tusk's "I'm Not Wrong.") It doesn't hurt that the band are super-tight and can replicate the harmonies heard on the recordings. Most reviews tend to focus cute redhead vocalists Caroline Donovan and Jeanine O'Toole, and perhaps rightly so, but there's something about songwriter-guitarist Edward Anderson's voice that is appealing. And when mixed with the ladies' voices it's tingly good. There were less psychedelic freakouts this time around, though the monster show-closer "Two Ways," which featured Stevie Jackson doing his best Doug Yule impersonation, certainly made up for it...if that's what you were looking for. Setlist:
Flight of the Monowings | Acutiplantar Dude | Bring the Good Boys Home | Georgia | The Medium Way | Cold and Kind | When I Say Go |I'm Not Wrong | Two Ways
MP3: The 1900s - Two Ways (buy Cold & Kind)
Speaking of Mr. Jackson (who is exactly one day younger than me, turns out) Belle & Sebastian's #2 man in charge played a fun, funny opening set. He is integral to B&S though I'm not always that crazy about his songs, which tend to be a little too cutesy Jonathan Richman-ish for me (though he has definitely improved since "Chickfactor"), but in a solo context it's much better, with him telling stories between songs, encouraging audience participation, and generally having a good time.
He only did one B&S tune, a lovely arpeggiated take on "Jonathan David" (perhaps his most Stuart Murdoch-esque song), though that may be wrong as I missed the first couple songs. Mostly it was new stuff, including a slow-jam rap about filmmaker John Huston. There were special guests too. Laura Cantrell (not to be confused with Laura Gibson, who opened the night) joined him for a cover of Hank Williams' "Lost Highway" and an original called "Dusty." Then he brought the 1900s out to back him on show-closer "Try Me" which I shot kind of sucky footage:
MP3: Belle & Sebastian - Jonathan David
The 1900s and Stevie play again tonight at the Mercury Lounge and, as of around noon, there were still tickets available.