The Dandy Warhols at First Avenue, 6/9/13

Categories: Concert Review
Photo courtesy of the artist

The Dandy Warhols
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Sunday June 9, 2013

Sometimes a veteran rock band will perform one of its old albums in concert, beginning to end. You know this happens. It's no longer a trend or phenomenon to be excited or annoyed by, it's just an inescapable fact of the 21st century live music experience, and it works better with some albums than others.

Maybe only the die-hardiest of Dandy Warhols fans consider the Portland band's 2000 breakthrough album, 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia, a bona fide classic -- if that sort of fancy classification matters to you. But it's for sure a solid collection of songs, and with its deliberate pacing, repeatedly building from dreamy to punchy before again tapering off, well-suited to the LP-as-concert format.

An electronic thrum already filled the First Avenue mainroom when the band's four members arranged themselves across the front of the stage in a horizontal tableau: Zia McCabe, perpetually hipshaking behind her keyboard bank; drummer Brent DeBoer, his Lindsey Buckingham-like afro glowing in the stage lights; the well-preserved frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor, hair pulled back starkly from his face; and Peter Holmström, cutting a somewhat mystic
figure in his hat and heavy beard. (A touring bassist and a multi-instrumentalist lurked upstage, supporting the core musicians.)

Taylor-Taylor's languorous acoustic guitar strum set the tone for the opening songs. "Godless," punctured by a Cake-like trumpet, flowed into the chintzy exotica of "Mohammed," which in turn gave way to the feedback swells of "Nietzsche." (That last song's "I want a god who stays dead/ Not plays dead" was apparently the personal affirmation of a big guy in a backwards baseball cap near me, who punched the air as he sang along.)

The rootsy genre-exercise "Country Leaver" offered a transition into three straight-up rockers: "Solid," about Taylor-Taylor's almost sociopathic ability to get over a breakup; "Horse Pills," a smirky critique of medicated decadence; and the jaunty orgasm addict's anthem "Get Off."

The energy eased up then, as it was time for the lovely ballad "Sleep" and then "Cool Scene" offering a reminder of a simpler time, when you had write songs complaining about the people in your town instead of blasting them on Twitter.

The set climaxed with the band's breakthrough tune, "Bohemian Like You," its guitars offering as lively a Rolling Stones imitation any indie rockers have pulled off in the past twenty years, and "Shakin'," which cheekily rips off Elastica ripping off Wire. The album's final songs, "Big Indian" and "The Gospel," with its borrowed refrain from "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," offered a coda of sorts.

The trip through 13 Tales took about an hour. Taylor-Taylor was silent between songs, which occasionally gave the set an expedient air -- not rushed or perfunctory, but purposeful. But once the band polished off the main course, they served up a forty-five minute dessert.

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