Monday, March 05, 2007

The Rev's Online Redemption: Take that, nonbelievers!

About a half hour into their set at the Miramar last night, the Reverend Horton Heat's frontman, Jim Heath, went on a tirade about all the people on his band's forum (as well as bloggers) pissing and moaning about the setlist. "We don't have a setlist," he said, motioning to the ground. "Do you see any taped up lists here?" Sure, he explained, there's some songs they play a lot and string together, but they sure as heck didn't have a bona fide setlist (and he did indeed affect an attitudinal voice each and every time he said the word "setlist.") And to prove it, the band took requests for most of the rest of the show. There were obviously a few tunes they did you could tell they wanted to play anyway, but by and large, they easily handled pretty much anything the crowd threw at them. Take that, collector scum!

Everything I expected from the Reverend was delivered. The amazing thing is that he makes it look all so easy, snapping off incredible little licks and riffs from his big ol hollow-body Gretch, dressed in a white suitjacket emblazoned with fiery appliques. And he just as seemingly easily molds and contorts his versatile voice to fit each and every song, like the subtle difference between smooth and crunchy peanut butter. Jimbo has gotten a new, gorgeous bass that is some kind of lighter wood (maple?) with beautiful cross-grain waves, topped off with a flaming paint (or probably stain) job that didn't obscure the wood's natural beauty. Still plays it like he was ready to schtupp it, though. The Miramar room was hot, hot from the music and physically warm; I had to step out every now and then to catch some cool air, but overall, I like seeing bands here: you've got a main floor, but you can also sit in theatre chairs if you wish.

The Rev hasn't let me down with amazing opening acts: that's how good the Rev is, confident to book a mind-blowing band to open for his without stealing his thunder. Last night's offering was Murder By Death, a quartet from Bloomington, Indiana that started out Americana, but then gave us intricately-crafted songs that brought to mind everything from Nick Cave to maybe even some european goth and prog influences. I found myself unable to take my eyes and ears off of keys and electric cellest Sarah Balliet, her precision flailing about recalling Rasputina's Melora Creager (not to mention her use of effects that really bring out the grind of intense cello playing), her perfect side-parted blond hair pointing out her waitress-waiting-for-her-big-break eyes. Almost completely stole the show from lead singer/guitarist Adam Turla, whose rich, soulful voice had a touch of Elvis (or maybe Nicholas Cage doing Elvis), which is why the prog elements work: big ideas backed up with a voice that can hold them up. Those Indiana folks, though, they sure do love a good anthemic coda! Except unlike Axl Rose, their codas are not like hanging a hat on a horse (hoping a full blown orchestra can make up for an essentially weak song, and thus pretentious). No, Murder By Death's codas are buttercream icing on a red velvet cake, and I'll definitely be having seconds when they come through town again.

No pictures from this show -- the no camera policy was being strictly enforced, right down to cameraphones being pointed out. So as it is, the visual I can give you is vintage. This is a picture of the back my Reverend Horton Heat T-Shirt that I bought back in '91 at that fateful night at the Toad Café. The front is simply "The Reverend Horton Heat" in block letters. I had blown all my cash paying cover and buying a few beers, and get this -- they let me write a postdated check made payable to "Jim Heath." (And the check was good!) I still have that cancelled check somewhere, and when the Reverend has achieved the World Domination he so richly deserves, I have my post-dated brush with greatness to hold onto. And now you know how much Elvis weighs on Uranus. Wasn't this bugging you?

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