The Old 97’s proved, to a mostly full house at the Cradle last night, that you might get older — but you can still rock just as hard as you did five years ago. I hadn’t seen them since 2008, and even that was at Raleigh Downtown Live, which is not an optimal situation for seeing one of your favorite bands, as every resident of Johnston County over 21 is there and drinking Miller Lite. (It was, however, as BJ once told us, an optimal time to steal all the TVs in Johnston County, as there was no one there those nights, because they were all in Moore Square.) So I hadn’t really seen the 97’s since the summer of 2005, when they were still touring behind Drag It Up, at the Vic in Chicago — it might have been, in fact, one of if not the last show I saw in the city before moving to the NC — with Rocket and the Chicago 97’s crew. The Vic is about three times the capacity of the Cradle, and we had a great spot halfway back, perfect for dancing and drinking, but less perfect for an excellent view of the band at work.
And last night, up close, standing two feet from Ken, they reminded me why they’re one of the hardest working bands today, and why they remain one of the best (and my favorite) live acts out there. They blazed through 28 songs in exactly two hours, including a bizarre and hilarious Rhett solo covers medley of Southern Culture on the Skids into the Pixies into the Ramones, and highlighting things that both Ash and I have longed to hear live for many years; “Buick City Complex” (the best song about fooling around after the world has ended ever written) for her, and a gorgeous Murry-with-acoustic rendition of “Valentine” (a song that is, as several of you know, deeply, deeply close to my heart) for me.
The latest album sounds almost good live. Rhett’s hips are still a miracle of nature. Ken makes the best rock god faces this side of Mike Cooley. Murry’s bass is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen on stage. And Phillip sits at the back, looking intensely pained, and keeps all three of those idiots on time and on pace and running like a well-oiled machine.
I am exhausted and wrung out and I may never get “I Wanna Be Sedated” out of my head. Full set is here.
Setlist: The Grand Theater/Here’s To The Halcyon/The Dance Class/Buick City Complex/W Tx Teardrops/No Baby I/Champaign, Illinois/House That Used To Be/Please Hold On While The Train Is Moving/Doreen/Question/You Were Born To Be In Battle/Barrier Reef/A TX State Of Mind/Stoned/New Song (Machines?)/Indefinitely/Let The Whiskey Take The Wheel/Smokers/Every Night Is Friday Night/Won’t Be Home/4 Leaf Clover/Encore: Come Around (R solo)/Fly That Rode From Buffalo (SCOTS cover) –> Wave of Mutilation (Pixies cover) –> I Wanna Be Sedated (Ramones cover) (R solo)/Valentine (M solo w/ drunk Rhett harmonies)/Rollerskate Skinny/Big Brown Eyes/Dance With Me/Timebomb