“We’re from Nashville and, if you liked us, we’re Lambchop," said frontman Kurt Wagner at the Beachland Ballroom last night. "If for any reason you’re disappointed, we are Kings of Leon.”
Lambchop proved capable of providing levity to a set heavy on themes of loss and death – largely culled from this year’s Mr. M – they just took their grand old time getting there, like waiting for an answer at a nursing home patient’s door.
Patience is key; it took 50-odd minutes of slow, rambling tunes laid barren – parted neatly on a musical plate for the gracious crowd to digest at their leisure – before the band really addressed and embraced the audience. The five-man band was arranged in a semicircle, suggesting their fondness for symmetry or maybe that the fans were the center of this affair.
Dedicated to Vic Chesnutt, who graced this stage not long before his passing on Christmas 2009, Mr. M is a pot of hot water sitting on a stove, perpetually a few degrees under boiling temperature. As with Wagner and company’s albums, it’s concerned with the day-to-day routines of simple folk, never once jolting out of queue in the coffee shop.
If there were any disappointed fans at the show, it would be those that longed for Nixon-era grandiosity in the form of a more full-bodied, tentacle-armed band grabbing choice cuts from the past two decades. Save your V signs: We were given a performance that was all drum brushes, a Nord Electro yawning out organ sounds, sly basslines, ‘70s lounge piano, and light guitar strumming.
Only the bass player stood during the show; Wagner sat side on to the audience, twitching and jerking seemingly at will but in full control of his quavering vibrato, wrenching the words out from beneath his black baseball cap.
To lift the stillness of the room, pianist Tony Crow went on about Chang and Eng, the famous Siamese twins, and quoted Jimi Hendrix: “When the power of love becomes stronger than the love of power, we will have peace."
To demonstrate their love for the audience, Wagner coaxed a guy to come sit onstage while he performed a birthday song. This led to a slight misunderstanding when security came to tell him to get his “fat ass off the stage.”
Adding to the comedy of errors, Crow took a jab at how long most of the songs were before launching into the rest: “Here’s another song Kurt wrote while we were playing the last one.”
This actually introduced a respite at the end of Lambchop’s set for those unfamiliar with Mr. M; they performed 2002’s “My Blue Wave – complete with the prickly “bones and squirrels in your head” line – and “Soaky in the Pooper,” a song about a bathroom suicide which lurches backward all the way to ’94.
The announced encore began with Crow singing a little theme song for the merch man in the yellow hat, then finished on a more serious note: “Guess I’m Dumb,” Brian Wilson’s song for Glen Campbell, had a lighter bounce than the simple chord progression evident throughout their set.
Then, to cap off the 90-minute performance, Lambchop covered Dylan’s “I Threw It All Away,” aptly plucked from Nashville Skyline.
Earlier in the night, Akron’s White Pines were a solid selection as openers, given that they are a bold and brazen folk outfit with all the hair (both massively flowing and receding) and sharp guitar tones you might expect. It was like they opened the door to let the cold wind in before Lambchop built us a slow fire. —Michael Tkach