Nov 28, 2007

If A Song Could Be President

Over the Rhine transitioned in Madison last night from a 'world' tour to a 'Christmas' tour, marked preemptively like our storefronts with a single string of lights dressing the bass drum. Lackadaisical folk lyrics and free jazz instrumentation ornamented the Majestic like pine cones hot-glued to popsicle stick sleds, the mood dripping golden like the stage's Vaudeville frame.

Karen Berquist stood, perched in the center of an oriental living-room rug accented by a vase of pink roses for the occasion. A slight formality exuded from her red blazer, barely covering the accent, black leather boots, and frilly low-cut top of a rural Ohioan. But the night was all about her voice and how it cozied up warm next to her husband's piano. Subtle and expressive. Breathy but not whispered. Raspy but not broken . Feistesque on the upbeat, Faith Hillish on the belt. Slow and forcefully complex.

Watching the live creation of such amazing OtR classics as "Drunkyards Prayer" and "Ohio" was fascinating, much like touring a working factory where toys are conveyor-assembled, microchips are soldered to circuit boards, or beer bottled. Karen would stretch her neck, squint, birth a beautiful note out of a tight pucker, sustain it... sustain it... and PUNctuate it with a quick jolt of her head backwards. Snapping it off at its completion.

Over The Rhine - Ohio (mp3)

Unfortunately the immaculate moments of passion were few and far between, with pieces of the new "Trumpet Child" gleaming as over-performed as the album was over-produced. Bright orange lights would flash abrupty and wipe t
he clenched poignance off Karen's jaw in favor of a comfortable grin and an upbeat sway. Dipping his upright like a ballroom dancer, the bass player was as uncomfortably enthusiastic as his flared seventies collar. And at the risk of sounding like a grouch, the Christmas focus with goofy anecdotes about shepherds and peace on earth seemed a bit off topic, at least for the show I had planned to see.

As usual, the highlights of the set came in the encore. A characteristic Tom Waits celebration titled "Don't Wait For Tom" unfolded relaxed and struck brash with three smacks of a cookie sheet. It was obviously written to be performed. And the liberal musician fantasy "If A Song Could Be President" could've been written specifically for the Madison audience.

Overall, the night was full of subtle elegance - elevated by impressive sound engineering and a surprisingly cozy atmosphere for a crisp new venue. It may be a small detail, but the refreshingly thoughtful pre-show playlist set a strong mood and deepened the experience's authenticity to the core. The Majestic is beginning to flex its powerful perspective; not only because it presented Over the Rhine so aptly, but because it did the same with such a contrasting show as “Against Me” in the same week.

Over The Rhine - If A Song Could Be President (mp3) [buy]


At Thursday, November 29, 2007, Anonymous uwmryan said...

Nice, very well written. I wish I could have made the show. Sound like a missed a good one.

At Thursday, November 29, 2007, Anonymous Drunk Country said...

ohio link seems to be fritzed.

At Thursday, November 29, 2007, Anonymous beth said...

may i ask where that photo is from?

At Thursday, November 29, 2007, Blogger Kyle said...

The link is fixed - thanks! I got the photo from the historical society.


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