Let Me Entertain You: The Feelies @ World Cafe Live 4.17.10

Though we’ve had almost 35 years to figure them out, The Feelies have remained a most curious band. From their beginnings as a group of suburban non-punk punks, the band has maintained a mysterious elusiveness that has made them the sphinxes of the indie rock world. In recent years, The Feelies have been mostly inactive due to their members’ scattering across the East Coast, though they’ve recently reformed to play a show or two every year. As their appearances are incredibly infrequent, their concerts are more like festive happenings, though you wouldn’t know that by looking at the band during the show. In contrast to their itchy guitar rock, The Feelies showed little in the area of self-amusement. Aside from an occasional “thanks” or “this is a new one” from bassist Brenda Sauter, hardly a word was spoken between songs. The lack of chatter made for a tight and breakneck show, which included two sets (one acoustic, one electric), and enough encores to tide the audience over until the next time the band materializes.

My Feelies experience actually started several hours before the show itself. I watched as the band performed their soundcheck, as well as their World Cafe session and interview. From their apprehension during the interview, I could tell that my own interview with lead singer Glenn Mercer might be more uncomfortable than expected. As it turned out, Glenn was quite pleasant, even if he didn’t exhibit the stereotypical, over-the-top musician personality. I reasoned that, like The Feelies’ music, Glenn wasn’t interested in catering to expectations and, if what he did resonated with someone else, it wasn’t necessarily intentional. The Feelies’ proper show had fans buzzing, eager to see what this uncommon band would have to offer.

The first set, as Glenn explained to me earlier, was acoustic, though only guitarist Bill Million played an acoustic instrument. This set was more dedicated to the band’s mid-tempo and pastoral material, as well as the first of many covers that would be performed throughout the night. They started with “When Company Comes,” from The Good Earth, their second album and first to explore this more contemplative style. That was followed by The Velvet Underground‘s “Sunday Morning,” which transitioned quickly into Jonathan Richman‘s fabulous instrumental, “Egyptian Reggae.” The first new song, “Bluer Skies” also appeared in this set, as did a number of other songs from The Good Earth. Though this set was supposed to focus on more subdued sound, there was still a fair amount of guitar theatrics from Mercer, and dual drummers Dave Weckerman and Stan Demeski made the band’s complicated rhythms sound effortless. As the set went on, the songs got more and more rock-y until Neil Young‘s “Barstool Blues” found Million finally switching to an electric guitar.

If the acoustic set was only tenuously so, then the electric set was just what it said it would be. Early in this set came my favorite Feelies song, “Higher Ground,” as well as one of their best-known songs, “Away.” The songs featured in this half skewed more towards extended solos, noise and percussive interludes. “Slipping (Into Something)” and the showstopping title track from Crazy Rhythms got the crowd finding a way to groove to a decidedly un-groovy band. As “Crazy Rhythms” clattered to a close, the frenzied audience undoubtedly expected some encores, and The Feelies were eager to oblige. Four times. The encore portions featured even more covers, such as R.E.M.‘s “Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcar),” a pair of Beatles songs (“She Said, She Said” and “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey”) and another VU tune, “What Goes On.” At the end of the second encore, I thought I had the perfect line for this review. I would’ve said that The Feelies’ show ended where their career began, with their debut single, “Fa Cé-La,” but they had to go and play even more music. It seemed like each additional encore was wearing out the audience more than the band. Finally, the band quietly thanked the audience after one last encore and the marathon had come to a close. It’s a shame that The Feelies don’t tour more often, but by not succumbing to the nostalgia circuit, they preserve the enigmatic charm that draws so many fans to their sporadic appearances.

Click the picture at the top of this post to see more pictures of The Feelies in concert!!

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~ by E. on April 26, 2010.

2 Responses to “Let Me Entertain You: The Feelies @ World Cafe Live 4.17.10”

  1. Was a great show! Standing in front of Bill Million was the perfect place to hear – here’s Boxcar from that night. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdr2pAN8Olo

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