Monday, June 18, 2012

Rhett Miller rocks the Coach House

Photographs taken by Bob Steshetz. Visit his blog here.

Rhett Miller and the Serial Lady Killers never let up on Sunday night, June 17, 2012. The quartet's powerful performance at the Coach House was a celebration of more more than Miller's limitless gifts as a songwriter.

"I know you're all sitting down," Miller said when he took the stage. "We're going to rock you anyway."

From the opening notes of "Lost Without You" - one of many superb songs off his newly-issued album The Dreamer featured this night - Miller was aided and abetted by lead guitarist Tommy Borscheid, bassist Greg Beshers and mighty drummer Angela Webster as they hefted those songs on their collective backs. It's no wonder that Miller was totally drenched by the end of the 90-minute set.

Whether playing new songs or classic Old 97's material, Miller was able to bring an infectious energy to the songs with the full ensemble bringing equal shares of straightforward rock 'n' roll attitude and skilled musicianship to the mix. The versions heard in San Juan Capistrano rarely mirrored the studio recordings. "Sleepwalkin'" was offered up more upbeat than on the new album, and the soaring use of a slide by Borscheid was the perfect counterpoint to Miller's amped-up vocals on the song.

Fans of Miller's previous solo releases were treated to some of his finest material off those discs. The confessional "I Need to Know Where I Stand" off his self-titled 2009 album boasted a rollicking indie rock approach, while "Help Me, Suzanne" off 2006's The Believer showcased Miller's skills as crafting melodic power pop complete with strong vocal harmonies from Beshers and Borscheid.

And while getting to watch the troupe rock was loads of fun, Miller mixed things up. He performed a two-song acoustic set. Having released his The Interpreter Live at Largo covers album last year, he featured a solo performance of "California Stars" (the original was featured on Mermaid Avenue with Wilco and Billy Bragg) and a reworked version of the classic Old 97's song "Timebomb." Both put the focus on his wonderful vocals and emotional delivery of a song.

"Question" benefitted from Borscheid's textured guitar stylings. Heather Robb (a member of the opening band the Spring Standards) provided some beautiful lead and harmony vocals on several songs, notably on the stunning country rock-flavored "Fireflies."

Darting back and forth between his solo work and Old 97's stuff proved to be effortless for Miller and company. The Old 97's' rocking "Dance With Me" and "Four Leaf Clover" were both handled with the necessary firepower to impress.

Of the two openers on the bill, New York's the Spring Standards (seen on right) was the obvious standout. A terrific young group  armed with material ranging from authentic Americana to 1980s New Wave pop, the ensemble boasted three great lead singers (Heather Robb, James Cleare, James Smith) who also harmonized with style. Highlights included the traditional sounding country of "Crushing Pennies," jazz-tinged "Sharks" and infectious pop of "Nightmare."
The Spring Standards can be seen on Conan on TBS at 11 p.m. (10 p.m. central) tonight, Monday, June 18, 2012.


Unknown said...

Great review - Rhett Miller is an American treasure.

newwavegeo said...

Miller always puts on a rambunctious concert. Sorry I had to miss this one.