I am not a man prone to exaggeration.
OK, I am a man prone to exaggeration, but I'm aware of that problem and for the next thirty seconds, as I type the sentence that will follow this one, I will do my very best to rein that in.
Cracker's show at the Beachland Ballroom last Friday night may have been my finest concert experience ever.
I won't go so far as to say they put on the best performance I've ever seen (though it was incredibly awesome) - that honor goes to Phosphorescent earlier this year.
However, that Phosphorescent show was a somewhat lonely experience, sitting at a bar by myself listening to a great concert.
This Cracker show, almost as great, topped the overall vibe because of the feelings of camradarie and friendship it entailed. Thanks to the company of a few great people and a few more cold beverages, I had a wonderful time as the band kicked off an incomparable set-list that provided the soundtrack to the last fifteen years of my life. (Note: One of the aforementioned great people has a set-list wrap-up with commentary that I'm not gonna be able to top in this post. Check it out here.)
The show kicked off with fury as the band began their set with "Mr. Wrong," one of my all-time favorite tunes by anybody. I immediately took this as a good sign, considering in the email I'd sent to the band's drummer, Frank Funaro, with the link to the interview we'd done I'd gotten all fanboy and asked him to consider playing my three favorite songs: "Mr. Wrong," "Merry Christmas Emily," and "Big Dipper." By starting off with one of them, I was certain that they were going to close with another of the three and then dedicate the entire encore to me by name as they closed with the third. (What can I say - I dream big and irrationally.) Things didn't ended up working out that way, though I did get 2 of the 3. (On a totally unfair side-note, my concert buddy for the night, Angie, to whom you owe your thanks for the lovely photo above, heard all 3 of her picks, and she never even contacted the band, much less posted an interview! I reminded her of this and she attributed it to the power of the P. I'm not sure what that means ...)
Even as this monster of a tune let up, the band refused to do the same, ripping off twenty more tunes with hardly a break. These included a perfectly balanced mix of old hits and new tracks from the band's recent album, Sunshine in the Land of Milk and Honey (which, by the way, is totally fantastic and well worth your $15 hard-earned recession dollars. Well worth it.) The crowd was most excited when hearing the opening chords of "Teen Angst" and (especially) "Euro-Trash Girl," and as good as the songs were, the crowd had me so interested I spent a good several minutes looking at the various folks in the crowd. By no means was this a young crowd, though a pal of mine in the opening band informed me that the area immediately in front of the stage was packed full of the usual 18-year-old hotties (strange for a band that had much of its critical success before these gals were even born, but whatever). Instead you saw lots of chill couples sporting hair probably a little further down the dark<->gray continuum than they'd like, laid back and appreciative of one more time to see the band they'd loved for so long, and to do so in such a funky setting as the Beachland Ballroom. (Note: If you've never seen a show in the big room at the Beachland, please do yourself a favor and go - it really is a wonderful, idiosyncratic room.)
One could argue, however, that the crowd had the best overall response to a pair of new tunes, "Friends" (which is the best ode to dysfunctional friendship ever - seriously, listen to Johnny Hickman's lyrics) and "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out with Me" (which Lowery noted had made it all the way up to #13 on the adult alternative list). When you can put together as many hits as Cracker has over the years (another friend referred during the show to David Lowery as the Tom Petty of indie rock, if that gives you any idea of this band's songwriting chops)
After nearly two straight hours of alt-country rock, the band ended the main set with beautiful and blistering versions of "Big Dipper" (which prompted ATV Matt and I to do a completely spontaneous, awkward half-high five/half-man hug as we'd only moments before agreed that there was no way they'd be playing that song this evening) and "Low" and I'd scarcely caught my breath before the band was back out on the stage for the first of two encores. Three songs later, including evening-closer Flaming Groovies-cover "Shake Some Action," the band bid adieu to the fans for real.
The lights came up and I swear you could hear a collective "WOW!" I knew it wasn't just me and it certainly wasn't the frigid High Lifes that kept winding up in my mitts that had made the impression - it was the energy that Cracker had brought onto the stage and that had spread like an influenza of awesomeness among the audience. I went home with a big smile on my face that night and dreamt sweet and silly dreams of rock and roll and renewal.
4 years ago