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Sunday, 06 November 2011 17:04

Concert review: Dr. Dog (with Wax Fang) operates on the Firebird, Saturday, November 5

Concert review: Dr. Dog (with Wax Fang) operates on the Firebird, Saturday, November 5
Written by Will Kyle

The second opening act of a sold-out night at the Firebird, Wax Fang captured the audience with a Pink Floyd and Radiohead-inspired set.

Scott Carney's vocals complemented his frantic guitar soloing as bassist Jake Heustis and drummer Kevin Ratterman locked into the tight rhythm of "The Astronaut Pt. 1." At one point, amidst the chaos of the gigantic song, Carney manned his theremin to electronic squeals and extra hot fuzz.

Behind the stage stood a set with an orange and red mock living room wall, complete with an outhouse half moon cut screen door and furnished further with a bookcase, lamps, a windowsill plant and grandfather clocks. On the wall hung portraits of the Queen, a karma lotus, a British soldier and three (fake I hope) taxidermy tiger heads.

Dr. Dog appeared before the clutter as if in the home of some crazed republican general. Bassist and one of two lead singers Toby Leaman (AKA Tables), buzzed into "Stranger" off 2010's "Shame, Shame." The song's chorus hummed, "And slowly I've become undone, a stranger with a stranger heart!" The bass-thrummed and palm-muted guitars played in Strokes fashion, as a deluge of band-wide '50s-styled backup "ohs" pushed the tune to grandiose sadness. Guitarist and fellow lead singer Scott McMicken (AKA Taxi) began "Shadow People" with his trademark nasal croon. Piano and walking drums filled out the tune's backbone as the audience screamed along, "Where did all the shadow people go? I want to know!"

"The Ark" from 2008's "Fate" stole from the mist with diligent bass and languid guitar. Leaman's soulful vocals bled promises over the stage as the chorus conjured Beatles psychedelia a la "Sgt. Pepper's" and again featured ragtime, band-wide backup singing. "From" rounded out the suite with a wobbly chorus by McMicken: "It's like a choo-choo train rolling away." Lead vocals passed back and forth between Leaman and McMicken most of the evening and suggested who penned which song -- something Dr. Dog's liner notes often withhold.

"Hang On" offered vocals by Leaman, burlesque-styled backup singing, soul and existentialism: "And what you thought was a hurricane was just the rustling of the wind." "Mirror, Mirror" was straight up psych-rock, exploding into a frenetic Ramones-esque, up-tempo jam. "The Beach" featured Godzilla stomp rock replete with violent guitars and creep organ. Leaman's raspy vocals slid over the distorted guitar like a roach struggling across a hot knife. "Where'd All The Time Go?" sounded like a Bob Dylan tune on bathtub gin and acid, and "Worst Trip" emerged from a drum solo to pilfer a bit of Beach Boys sentiment: "Is this the worse trip you have ever been on?" The keys did the work of the horns on the studio cut and Leaman's bass enveloped the audience like a warm blanket.

Dr. Dog blasted through a new tune, with McMicken singing, "If you don't want to lose your love tonight control yourself." "Someday," "The Breeze," and "Take Me Into Town" had the audience cheering as Leaman and McMicken danced with their instruments raised. "Army Of Ancients" brought more Beatles head-trip campfire work, while "The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer" and "Heart It Races" (an Architecture In Helsinki cover) were both playful excursions that possessed hi-fidelity, sun-soaked keys and handclaps.

Dr. Dog left the stage and returned with a three-song, audience-selected encore. Many screamed out tracks, but McMicken heard someone yell, "The Old Days" and jumped on it. The song glowed with thick, pumped-up bass and scale-climbing piano. "Down, down, down, moon gonna fall," McMicken sang. "Thump, thump, thump, house gonna fall down, chop, chop, chop, tree gonna fall down, back, back, back, back to the old days!"

A girl in the audience requested the deep-cut fan-favorite "The Girl." Dr. Dog obliged, despite not having played the tune in some time. The track didn't suffer and featured all the sloppiness, off-time screams and post-chorus tempo shifts of the studio version.

Dr. Dog closed out the sold-out show with "Jackie Wants A Black Eye." Leaman started off the track with syncopated handclaps as McMicken joined in with guitar and more Dylanesque vocals: "We're all in it together now as we all fall apart. We're swapping little pieces of our broken little hearts." The audience drank their last drinks to the sentiment, sad the set was drawing to a close, but fulfilled by Dr. Dog's genre-spanning creativity.

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