by Jeff Niesel
Out on what they’re calling a “living room tour,” alt-country rockers the Bottle Rockets played a stripped down acoustic show last night in Ohio City at a private residence (the owners have dubbed the space Mechanic Street House Concerts) that showed just what a treasure the band really is. At the start of the 90-minute concert, singer-guitarist Brian Henneman, who was flanked by his four bandmates, explained that the set list would be determined by request. “If you yell out ‘Freebird,’ we’ll either leave or play the entire song,” he joked. Instead, the band started the show with the mellow ballad “Get Down River,” a folk rock number that sounded like it could have been a traditional bluegrass tune.
When two fans requested different songs at the same time, the guys honored the woman’s request first. “We’re all married so we know better,” Henneman joked as the band first played the poignant “Kerosene” and then rocked a bit on the jangly “Waitin’ on a Train.” After performing the roots rock number “Stuck in Indianapolis,” Henneman told the story behind the tune and recalled a time when the tour bus broke down as he and Uncle Tupelo, the alt-country band that he used to play in, were on their way home after playing a few shows. Henneman said he was surprised that “Kit Kat Clock” was so popular with young children since it’s about “feeling depressed.”
Eventually, someone did request “1000 Dollar Car,” a song that Henneman said would be the equivalent of Springsteen’s “Born to Run” if you created a conversion chart. The redneck rocker “Gas Girl” had a real edge to it, even though the band played an unplugged version of it, and “Gravity Fails” benefited from some delicate mandolin work. The group finished up the 17-song set with “Radar Gun,” the only real hit has had in a career than stretches back almost 20 years, not that anyone in the attentive audience was there just to heart the “hits.” While they certainly don’t have the name recognition of alt-country acts such as the Jayhawks or Wilco, the underappreciate Bottle Rockets have a terrific catalogue and displayed great flexibility in adapting to the living room setting.