Concert review: Sebadoh rocks like they always should have, Off Broadway, Wednesday, August 15
Lou Barlow’s Sentridoh, which was the original moniker for his solo output during the time spent with Dinosaur Jr., has since become an umbrella for all his various solo material over the last few decades. Last night’s performance was a real treat for any Sebadoh/Barlow fan.
Sparingly accompanying himself with his infamous baritone ukulele, Barlow serenaded the audience at Off Broadway. He covered a lot of his career in this short solo set. Opening with a new rendition of “Temporary Dream,” Barlow continued to reach way back and play plenty of tracks from the first Sentridoh album, “Weed Forestin’” such as “Jealous of Jesus” and “It’s so Hard to Fall in Love.”
However, during a crudely intimate spoken segment of “I Believe in Fate” — Lou’s dark and smart-ass segments like this tend to be some of my favorites — I heard giggling and laughing from the crowd. That’s something I never would have expected with his older material since it seems so ridiculously serious and self-absorbed. But Lou is now able to make clear what is comical in his music and what is not (let’s face it, most of it is ultra serious). His sense of humor is much more obvious in new songs as “The Ballad of Daykitty” and a new song debuted last night that had a lot to do with “gazing into the calves of champions” and the inferiority feelings Barlow himself experiences when dropping his daughter off at an uppity school. Other highlights of the Sentridoh set included the Dinosaur Jr. contribution “Poledo” and “Ride the Darker Wave.”
When finishing, Lou told us he’d be back. And he was back. Back with Sebadoh. On this occasion, Sebadoh consists of Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and Bob D’Amico. Initially, I was a bit disappointed that there’d be no Eric Gaffney. I don’t know why I felt like that since when I think of Sebadoh I mainly think of Barlow and his “stinking garden of delights.” But, that didn’t even matter. D’Amico proved a beast on the kit and looked like Tony Danza. He made Sebadoh sound more like a fully-realized rock band rather than a songwriting collaborative project that they were so notorious for throughout the ’90s. The classic “Homemade” and “Rebound” were especially powerful and rocking. D’Amico is precise and intense and really gave such songs a new backbone.
And to my surprise, since I usually am not too big of a fan of Loewenstein’s material (1991′s “III” was rough for him, but he has since contributed amazing songs on 1994′s “Bubble and Scrape” and 1994′s “Bake Sale” where he seemed to pick up the slack after Gaffney left), last night the dude was on. Songs with his signature noodle-y, screechy guitar riffs and screamed vocals like “S. Soup” sound as good today as they might have 18 years ago. He provides a nice contrast to Barlow’s soft and professional air nowadays.
Loewenstein and Barlow traded guitar and bass throughout the night and took turns maybe every 15 minutes to sing their own songs. Despite playing on and off for the last twenty years or so, there were plenty of false starts and forgotten lyrics. And lets not forget what may be one of Sebadoh’s most endearing qualities: lots and lots of tuning/detuning during the set. Unfortunately, Loewenstein and Barlow have adapted themselves to chromatic tuners, which spared the audience the long passages between songs where the band would tune/detune the hell out of their instruments for everyone to hear.
And on that note, to review a Sebadoh show is to review Barlow’s shitbox guitars. I would have been bummed had Lou only played his neat black Gibson all night. Naturally, he whipped out some shitty 12-string Gretsch with only six out of the twelve tuning pegs and strings remaining and decked out in packaging tape. (Or was that some type of Scotch tape? Not important.) This was the Sebadoh I was planning to see. Lou played gentler numbers as “Skull” and his token mopey numbers like “Brand New Love” and “Two Years, Two days.”
The band returned for a quick encore. If there was one particular song (“III” in it’s entirety!) I was hoping to hear it would have to be “The Freed Pig.” And with that, the opening notes of the song came squealing from the stage. The song was tight and comfortable; clearly the song has been played a lot since 1991, probably like how the Rolling Stones perform “Brown Sugar.”
Mr. Barlow took a lengthy and indulgent solo at the end of the song, perhaps poking fun at fellow Dinosaur Jr. band mate J Mascis who is known for his incendiary and incessant soloing live. Who knows? After all the song was written about him, and who doesn’t like a little legend?