It’s not every day that you get to see one of your favorite bands not only perform twice, but perform two stellar sets and manage to outdo themselves each and every time. Saturday was just one of those nights, with two shows by Ohio natives Over the Rhine (husband and wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, backed by a phenomenal band) at the Old Town School of Folk Music.
I’ve seen Over the Rhine several times over the years (these two shows were numbers five and six) and have never been disappointed, and these two shows were no exception. I always find myself at a bit of a loss for words when talking about their music, which makes it hard to review a show. There’s something so very real about their music — every last lyric comes from the heart. As they say in their song “I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time”, Linford and Karin don’t want to waste our time with music we don’t need. But it’s okay, because their music is definitely something that I would say is needed in this world. They’ve been making music for 20 years now, and I can say that my life is definitely much richer for it.
The early show seemed a bit subdued; the crowd was quieter, the age demographic skewed a bit older, and the concert hall had an almost reverent attitude towards the show and the performers. While the set lists have run together in my head (I forgot to take notes to help jog my shady memory), I felt that the early show drew mostly from Snow Angels, their most recent “holiday” album (I wouldn’t call it a Christmas album, and really think it’s better referred to as a “winter” album, maybe.), and from The Trumpet Child. From my seat, at very far stage left, I finally got a good look at drummer Mickey Grimm, and all I can say is that this man is an artist. He comes across as kind of humorous and goofy, but he is definitely talented. I’ve always found drum solos to be a little cheesy, but Grimm’s solo on “Who’m I Kiddin’ But Me” always manages to be both fun and incredibly impressive.
The second show was, almost predictably, the opposite of the first. The audience was a little closer to my age range, and very vocally engaged in the show. This set provided many more uptempo moments and stretched a little wider across the band’s 20-year history, but the highlight for me was the band performing “Poughkeepsie”, from 1996’s Good Dog Bad Dog, which Karin introduced as being a song for anyone who feels like crap during the holiday season. This is one of my favorite songs ever — my coffee house song, my open mic song, one of about three songs I can play on guitar — and I’d doubted that I would ever hear Over the Rhine perform it, as it’s from an older release and their shows usually don’t go that far back for material. Lots of others in the audience seemed to feel the same way, too, as there were more than a few gasps of surprise/delight/whatever when the song began. An absolutely gorgeous moment, and I’m not afraid to admit that I got chills and maybe a little teary-eyed. Hey, it happens.
Other songs performed included “I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time”, “Born”, “Trouble”, “North Pole Man” (who wants innuendo-laden holiday songs? yes please!), “I’m On a Roll”, “All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue”, “Snow Angels”, “Ohio”, “Don’t Wait for Tom” (introduced as the song where “Karin’s going to beat the crap out of a cookie sheet”; someone should send them a box of old cookie sheets as a Christmas present, I think), a cover of Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl”, “Hush Now (Stella’s Tarantella)”, “Desperate for Love” (which had one audience member explain that he’d been waiting forever for that song, which amused Karin to no end), and “Etcetera Whatever”. Both encores included “All I Need is Everything” and “New Redemption Song”, with the second set including “Angel Band”, dedicated to the father of a family friend who had recently passed away, a gorgeous yet heartbreaking tribute. Over the Rhine truly is one of those rare bands who can both make you laugh and bring you to tears in the same 90-minute period.
Opener Lucy Wainwright Roche was a fantastic choice, and the audience loved her. I first saw Lucy in January 2008, opening for her half-brother Rufus, and I’m glad to say that she just keeps getting better. Unlike Rufus, Lucy’s music is obviously rooted in folk tradition, accompanied only by a delicately-played guitar. Much like Rufus (and the rest of her Wainwright-heritage), however, Lucy is absolutely hilarious. She’s not only gifted with a pure and clear voice, but with a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor as well. Though her set was short (only five songs), she certainly won over the audience with a series of amusing anecdotes: living the life of a touring musician and spending a lonely two years on the road; going on a date in London which ended with her date in the hospital after one of his lungs spontaneously collapsed; having her luggage and equipment lost by an airline; meeting Bruce Springsteen but being too shy to say anything to him; and getting ready to leave Brooklyn to drive out for this leg of the tour and finding that her car wasn’t parked where she’d left it the night before. She’s a wonderful musician and storyteller and I look forward to the release of her first full length album, which will hopefully be out next year. She has two EPs out currently, which can be purchased from Lucy directly on her MySpace page.