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Wednesday, 21 September 2011 10:27

Concert review: Okkervil River and Wye Oak shake up the Pageant, Tuesday, September 20

Concert review: Okkervil River and Wye Oak shake up the Pageant, Tuesday, September 20 flickr.com/photos/ann-dabney
Written by Matt Stuttler
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Wye Oak opened the show last night at the Pageant with an indie rock sound best described as less is more. Performing with only two members, drummer/keyboardist Andy Stack and vocalist/guitarist Jenn Wasner managed to make up for a lack of band members with intense musicianship and a string of dreamy hooks.

The Baltimore duo drew listeners in with subdued, hymn-like, delay-riddled tunes such as "The Altar" and "Holy Holy," from their newest effort "Civilian," before striking with heavier-live-than-ever songs like "Dog Eyes."

Stack manned a control center from behind his drum kit, operating a keyboard to fill in the deep bass and adding rhythmic licks with his left hand. Simultaneously, Stack ferociously pounded the drums without sacrificing any of the backbeat to multitasking. Wye Oak balanced their back catalogue nicely, playing a great deal of newer numbers but also performing "My Creator" from their "My Neighbor/My Creator" EP and "That I Do" from their 2009 full-length release "The Knot."

Austin indie folk stompers Okkervil River headlined with an extensive 19-song set, bringing out a wide sampling of their release history: from the acoustic-tinged "Black Sheep Boy" all the way up to the latest orchestral rocker "I Am Very Far."

Opening with violin and guitars blazing "Wake and Be Fine," vocalist/guitarist Will Sheff began to really shake and shiver with song number two "For Real," which was released as a single on their label Jagjaguwar in 2005.

Channeling jittering rock 'n' roll front men like Chuck Berry, Sheff swung and shimmied, knocking down mic stands and throwing his acoustic guitar about as if auditioning for an original running of American Bandstand. After a short break about a fourth of the way through the set due to technical problems, Sheff asked bassist/vocalist Patrick Pestorius, "Has there been a single show we haven't broken something since 1998?" Such is Okkervil River's reputation for attacking their live sets without reserve.

Sheff and crew staggered through hits like "John Allyn Smith Sails" with its outro adaptation of the Beach Boy's "Sloop John B," complete with trombones, and then "Lost Coastlines" from 2008 "The Stand Ins." "We Need a Myth" marked the halfway point of the set. Abruptly, the white backdrop behind the sextet became a landscape of a setting moon with a burning forest below it, a scene prompted by a violent violin break and an increased urgency in vocalist Sheff's trembling voice.

Between singing the lyrics from "No Key, No Plan" that proclaimed, "I'm doing what I really like and getting paid for it," and exclaiming out into the audience "Jesus Christ, it's pathetic how excited I am to come here and play for you," Sheff poured out his honest sentiment for the crowd. And the crowded responded, clapping and bouncing along, even as the night closed out with a three-song encore as a thank you to fans.

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