Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lights That Flash in the Evening: Rhett Miller & the Serial Lady Killers @ Black Cat, Washington, DC (9-17-09)

Rhett Miller's solo show here last Thursday at the Black Cat was everything you'd expect in a Rhett Miller solo show: a set list compiled of songs from his three solo records and the eight from his other band, the Old 97s, top-notch playing, and quite a bit of hip-swinging onstage. (Should Tom Jones ever wish to hand his crown down to an indie musician, my money's on Rhett.)

What was also unexpected was just how stellar and incredibly tight his band, the Serial Lady Killers, played. When a musician has a side-band apart from the group for which he's more known, the side-band may play well as individuals but rarely does it perform seamlessly as a group; side-project musicians tend to be interchangeable so there are not multiple tours to get comfortable with each other. However, Miller's Serial Lady Killers are, in fact, the same people as when he called his band "The Believers," so they've all had time to settle in some. "We changed the name on a whim...well, my whim," said Miller from the stage.

(Bassist Greg Besher)

(Lead guitarist Tommy Borscheid)

The secret weapon of the Serial Lady Killers is most definitely the drummer, Angela Webster. Playing barefoot, it was really something to watch someone her size make that much of a noise; the power with which she hit those skins, you'd think there were two drummers back there.

(Drummer Angela Webster)

Another unexpected thing was the age range of Miller's fans. At Old 97s shows, it's mostly college kids and thirty-somethings. Here, I saw everyone from guys in their 50s, down to an 11 year old girl who discovered Miller via her dad's music collection. (What was so cool was that girl sang every word and danced the entire show. It's too bad every 11 year old doesn't have that keen a musical ear...).

The 11 year old girl who dug Miller's music first noticed him, her dad said, because she thought he was "cute." If you have 2 X chromosomes and like boys, chances are you would agree with this girl, regardless your age, 'cause well, he is a handsome dude. But when Miller's voice faltered a bit on some of the higher range notes (and I mean higher like the line 'You're the only one' during the refrain of "Come Around,") on Thursday, he cut the phrase short and added an enthusiastic "Yeah!" each time, which frankly, added an enthusiastic punch to the song. Sounds minimal but someone less professional would probably try to croak it out. "Cute" only gets you so far in terms of sticking around in the music business, just ask anyone from a 90s boy band (apart from Justin Timberlake of course). Rhett Miller continually writes great rock and pop songs, and is always happy to give audiences what they want. And that takes more than just a pretty face.

(See the rest of the photos from the show here)

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