To say that, when playing live, Dr. Dog stays true to the most important elements of their recorded works is an understatement. But those elements (energy, musicianship, harmony) are certainly not a bad thing. Tuesday night at Webster Hall, in New York City, with a stage decorated with palm-flora in stark contrast to the chilly December air, Dr. Dog blazed through nearly two hours of material — across their entire catalog and back.
For the uninitiated, the band plays a loud, ferociously paced set that in many ways replicates the sound of their records. It’s not spot on – it’s not boring – it sheds a new light on just how good these five men are at playing their instruments and singing, more often than not, together.
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Some songs did not translate well, particularly towards the end of the set. Bassist/vocalist Toby Leaman voice, already sounding strained when speaking to the audience early in the show, grew weary and hoarse, at times almost sounding like a technical difficulty. But to his great, great credit, Leaman never sacrificed his performance; what was lost in voice was more than made up in bravado.
While it is easy to become captivated by Leaman and guitarist/vocalist Scott McMicken with their switching leads and use of the entire space of the stage, Frank McElroy was there every moment, either sharing the vocals, taking a solo, playing the rhythm or singing the harmony. Drummer Juston Stens and organ/pianist Zach Miller sat rocking in the back but kept pushing the band further and further.
What justifies the acclaim Dr. Dog’s live performances have amassed is their relentlessness. Every song was played like it was the set-closer, there was no sloppiness – even when the harmonies paled in comparison to the original recordings they were still together and tight.
Tuesday night at Webster Hall walked a fine line between 60’s pop and a take-no-prisoners approach – just where the band seems most comfortable both in the studio and on the stage. words/ b. kramer
MP3: Dr. Dog :: The Old Days
MP3: Dr. Dog :: The Ark
Amazon: Dr. Dog – Fate