On an evening topped by two songwriters steeped in alternative and punk rock roots but now pursuing more mainstream rock sounds, it's up to opening band We The Living from Nashville to push the full alt-rock envelope. Although I only arrive in time to catch their final song, Sound of Love, it's an anthemic number with a strong emphasis on soaring guitars and a memorable vocal hook. For a one song showing, the band certainly kick things off effectively.
Next up is Doug Gillard, probably best known for his guitar work in longstanding alternative icons Guided By Voices. Truth be told, he looks and sounds somewhat isolated in a still filling Mercury Lounge, with undoubtedly well-written and crafted songs losing some of their power in such a setting. An appreciative crowd applauds politely to acknowledge the skilled playing and effort, nonetheless, so the set is at least comfortable.
Tonight's headliner Doug Keith takes the stage with complete backing band, allowing the now fully assembled crowd a more rounded view of those tickling their ear drums. Opener We Left Everything is a clear indication of the additional power the full band offers in a live setting, taking the reflective calm of the record opener and injecting a pulsing energy to great effect. Title tune The Lucky Ones follows, displaying a similarly bristling confidence that goes down perfectly with the audience on its release day.
MP3: Doug Keith - The Lucky Ones
Taken from new album The Lucky Ones, out now - BUY
Keith has a husky, pleasant voice that resonates warmly through the majority of songs, lending an authority to the erudite tales he weaves. The Echo Will Fade has hints of country-rock within, both in the guitar licks and the same confident vocal, without ever sounding overly down home or contrived to that end. Older songs like Wasn't Born To Follow stand up strongly alongside the newer material, although the latter stands out pour moi, given repeated listens of the pleasing new record in the week leading up to this show.
Some real big hitters are saved for late in the set, as the irrepressible Skip James Radio provides an upbeat highlight of the evening, replete with its memorable refrain of "Phone lines & satellites / Oil paintings of Jesus Christ". Essential tune The Lowest Low then closes proceedings with a sweet sentimentality and gorgeous melody. The one nagging oversight for yours truly is the absence of the equally sage Don't Let The Darkness Overtake You, especially having come in from a filthy wet, cold and foreboding NYC evening, but for a set heavy on the newies, most of the choice tracks are showcased and the show suffers little for this one omission.
Release show complete, a good night has been had by all and an engaged audience feeds back their approval of the new opus to a clearly thankful Mr Keith. On the proof of this night, he'll continue to be warmly received as the songs are unveiled to new and appreciative ears around the country and beyond.