After a short holiday break, the 97’s have hit the road again, this time rockin’ it through the sunbelt. Wisely so being it’s miserable here in the Northeast.
Band favorite, Those Darlins were originally slated to open for this leg of the tour, but the three energetic lasses and lone lad had to bail, leaving an empty slot in need of filling. Leave it to our favorite front man to offer to pick up the slack and fill the gap between the O’s and Old 97’s by playing an acoustic set reminiscent of the “Evening With” tours of 2009. Fortunately for us fans, he loves his work.
Holding back nothing, playing with his usual verve, Rhett, the solo performer, impressed even the most skeptical in the audience, including Houston Music writer, April Brem Patrick.
“Miller delivered a set that was great in action… He started off with “Help Me, Suzanne”, probably my favorite song off of The Believer. He followed that up with a story about an ill-fated opportunity to be Billy Bragg’s back-up band in lieu of Wilco on a European tour. Though the tour didn’t happen Miller was still happy to bust out a song from the Bragg-Wilco collab, “California Stars”. Wow. This is one of my favorite songs of all time and something about Rhett Miller’s voice and phrasing just suit that song so well. It also made me realize that Old 97’s were like Wilco for people who thought Wilco were too weird.
He followed this up with “Come Around”, “Singular Girl”, the 97’s “Nineteen” (explaining that the rest of the band refused to play it anymore)… The acoustic versions of these songs seemed more natural than the full band arrangements on his albums.”
The band hit the stage running with the raucous Doreen, and cranked out a solid set of crowd pleasers over the next 90 minutes.
“The guys are pros and even if they got up there and played nothing but new songs, we’d all still enjoy it. Luckily for us all they delivered a solid mix of old and new, each one as great as the one before.”
Don’t we know it. View the entire House of Blues setlist here.
Not the usual leap, but nice levitation just the same.
Next stop was NOLA and the famed Tipitina’s. This time the power stayed on for the entire set, unlike last time during Mardi Gras.
The WorkPlay got a second visit within nine months from Birmingham’s favorite foursome. The audience brought the love. The Birmingham News’ Mary Colurso described the crowd this way:
“Joyful, rowdy and a few hundred strong… the Old 97’s faithful turned out to celebrate. Audience members sang along with the band, shouted song requests, danced with abandon and created a big ol’ love fest.”
Along with rocking sing-along standards like Won’t Be Home and Every Night, the guys threw in a couple quieter, lesser played lovelies, Salome and No Baby I. You can read the rest of Mary’s synopsis of the evening including a fun video explaining Rhett’s signature windmill here.
Prior to the gig at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia, Rhett spoke briefly with Jamie Gottlieb from Redandblack.com about the band’s cross-generational fan base, staying true to its music and defying genre categorization.
“I like that we’re not tied down to one time,” he said. “We’re not an ’80s band, a ’90s band — we are who we are, which has always been outside of [one movement]. “We’re a mutt,” Miller said. “We leave it to the critics.”
Last night , the Sprinter rolled into FLA for a Sunday night gig at St. Petersburg’s State Theater. By all accounts on Twitter, the show kicked butt. Wearing his usual after-show tee, Rhett treated the vocal crowd to the band’s long ago dropped Nineteen. The fans were definitely in a partying mood, singing along with abandon.
Later they all gave it up to the band, belting out perhaps the greatest gin-soaked, heartache anthem ever written, Wish the Worst.
Sounds like a good time was had by all. Both Rhett’s solo as well as band’s setlist are here.
One funny aside about last night’s show, before they took the stage, Rhett posted this photo of the dressing room on Twitter.
The few backstage areas I’ve been in have been dingy rooms filled with nasty, worn out sofas or have had walls filled with signatures and rude drawings, but this one… Wow. That’s more befitting a dismal KBG basement in St. Petersburg, Russia, not Florida. You can practically smell the mildew and hear the dripping faucet echo off the bare brick.
The 97’s are playing one last gig in Orlando tonight before heading back north and west, ending this leg at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas–site of their outstanding live double album, Alive and Wired. Tickets are still available for all the shows. Check out the tour schedule here and grab a space while they last.
Last, but certainly not least, Murry is selling copies of his CD “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, But I’m On My Way” at each show. 100% of the proceeds benefit “Project Mercy” who build houses in a very poor section of Tijuana in Mexico, similar to what Habitat for Humanity does in the US. He’s trying to raise $3500 to build one house for the May home build. Even if you can’t make it to any of the shows, you can still receive a CD and/or donate towards this worthwhile cause by sending a check to First Christian Church Burbank. Murry’s Facebook link with the address and all the details is here.
That’s it for now. Have fun out there with the best live band in the land!