Lou Barlow and the Missingmen at the 400 Bar, 8/25/10

Lou.jpg
Photos by Erik Thompson
Lou Barlow and the Missingmen
400 Bar
August 25, 2010

Lou Barlow brought his merry band of Missingmen (guitarist Tom Watson and drummer Raul Morales) with him to the 400 Bar Wednesday night, delivering a loose, engaging set that spanned Barlow's prolific career. It was nice to see the mercurial Barlow let his guard down considerably during the 90-minute set, joking with both the crowd and his band throughout the show, never taking himself or his solemn songs too seriously. He also reworked a good batch of songs both new and old, as he opened and closed the show with solo acoustic sets that provided stark, earnest interpretations of songs that were already emotionally charged to begin with.

After a pensive version of the Sebadoh track "Magnet's Coil" opened the show, Barlow announced "this is a New Folk Implosion song," and the small but passionate crowd greeted his statement with a loud cheer that caught Lou completely off-guard. "I don't think anyone's ever done that after I've said New Folk Implosion," he claimed self-deprecatingly, before launching in to a stellar version of "Easy." It was interesting to hear these songs in their pure, stripped down form, as Barlow treated us to "Too Pure" and "Pearl" with just his acoustic guitar accompanying his plaintive vocals. It brought a welcome depth and vulnerability to songs that in the past have otherwise been bathed in reverb and loud guitars.

After closing his acoustic set with a splendid rendition of "I'm Thinking...," the Missingmen (whom Barlow claims to have "stolen" from Mike Watt) joined Lou for an animated electric set that mainly featured songs from Barlow's recent record Goodnight Unknown. After the rather sedate opening, it was nice to have the band plug in and get loud, especially considering how many stacks of amps they had behind them on stage. "Don't Apologize," "The One I Call" and "Praise" were all spirited, and clearly found Barlow comfortable and at ease with his new bandmates, who provided a dynamic, vigorous pulse behind these new songs. Before "Praise," which Barlow cheekily claimed was from "The No-Great-Shakes album," he explained why he loved Minneapolis: "They don't write about me in other cities, and I can always rely on a condescending blurb in the weeklies here. You still write about me, which is nice. Oh, I still suck? OK, that's cool." Those types of witty, derogatory remarks colored the entire show, which brought a bit of levity to Barlow's heavy, melancholy material, which he claims "all have a kernel of hope buried in them."

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The main set finished with the band tearing through a few tracks from the just released EP Sentridoh III, which is a louder, more aggressive batch of songs than the full-length that proceeded it. "Gravitate/One Machine" was a potent, explosive highlight, which was quickly followed by "Caterpillar Girl" and "Faith Defies The Night," which were both stellar, and found Barlow strapping on a bass for the first time in the night. After a blistering version of "Losercore," the band left the stage, and as Barlow placed a stool in front of him (which he would only rest his foot on, mind you), he said "This is the encore" without wasting everyone's time by going backstage.

Barlow had taken requests earlier in the set, and continued to do so during the encore, opening with a lovely version of "Two Years, Two Days" that he played on a ukulele that he had outfitted with guitar strings. The Bubble And Scrape-heavy encore continued with great renditions of both "Soul And Fire" and "Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)" that were truly moving and quite poignant. Barlow claimed that he was really enjoying this tour because "People actually listen when I play acoustic, which hasn't happened in a long time." So, after thanking the respectful audience, Barlow closed the set with two tender versions of songs from Emoh, "Mary" and "Legendary," which ended the night on a passionate high. It was a penetrating set that removed whatever veneer and attitude that Barlow has perhaps hidden behind throughout his career, giving his audience a distinct, intimate look into the heart of his stirring songs.

Critic's Bias: Big Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh fan from my hazy college days.
The Crowd: A bit on the smaller side, with a lot of fans leaving after both Wye Oak and Little Man's stellar opening sets. 
Overheard In The Crowd: "It's great to come out and see some live music again. This was a great night out." --said by someone leaving the 400 Bar after Little Man's set.
Random Notebook Dump: Barlow didn't play my request of "Pink Moon," claiming he "can't play that song anymore."

Setlist:
     Barlow Acoustic
Magnet's Coil
Easy
Too Pure
Pearl
Spoiled
I'm Thinking
     With The Missingmen
Don't Apologize
Home
Sharing
The One I Call
Too Much Freedom
Praise
Gravitate/One Machine
Caterpillar Girl
Faith Defies The Night
Losercore
     Barlow Acoustic
Two Years, Two Days
Soul And Fire
Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)
Mary
Legendary
 

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