It might be a good idea for Rhett Miller to add a portable defibrillator to his concert rider. Watching the Old 97s frontman manically strum, yelp, and coo for two hours armed only with an acoustic guitar and an amphetamine addicts energy makes you worry his heart may simply give out.
Millers songs deal mainly in broken hearts as well. Drawing equally from his own quartet of solo albums and the extensive back catalogue of The Old 97s, the night was dedicated to the fictitious women of small-town bars that populate Millers music. The Chapel made for a fitting venue, as the intimate crowd treated the evening as a country sermon, stomping their feet, belting out choruses, and in the evenings most tender moment, ascending the stage to join Rhett.
Asking for a member of the audience to help him sing Fireflies, his duet with Rachel Yamagata off 2006s The Believer, he brought a woman on stage that he swore hed never met before.
I feel kinda like a magician, he joked, assuring the crowd that this woman wasnt a plant and that he had no idea how his experiment would turn out.
There was no need to worry. She swayed at the microphone, never missing a word, her cheek flush with Millers as they came together to deliver the refrain. As she left the stage to raucous applause, a 12-year-old girl begged Miller to let her sing the song with him too. Id been standing behind her all night, and she knew every word to every song. At one point her father had knelt beside her and kindly suggested she stop singing so loudly. Miller gave it a moments thought before relenting, admitting that she was so fucking cute. And so Fireflies was played a second time, with Miller on his knees and the young girl belting out the part of his lover.
Ive got nothing to say, Miller confessed when the song ended for a second time. That was the most surreal moment of my life.
For fans of Miller, it was nothing surprising. Hes always run his show like a whiskey-operated jukebox, giving as much of himself as he can. How else can you explain a 27-song set that spanned two encores and left the Chapels congregation clamoring for more when a sweat-drenched, croaky Miller finally departed the stage? The problem with lead singers embarking on solo tours is entertaining a crowd you ostensibly built on a different body of work. Rhett Miller has never had this problem, partially because of his willingness to dig out cuts from his bands discography but more simply because its impossible to begrudge someone whos so clearly thrilled to share his songs with anyone wholl listen.
Holy shit, he gasped at the midway point of his set. A sane person would just stop. Then Miller brandished a smile and rearranged the capo on his guitar. But Im not sane.
We all hope it stays that way.
Lost Without You
Melt Show (Old 97s)
Champaign, Illinois (Old 97s)
Buick City Complex (Old 97s)
This Summer Lie
Adelaide (Old 97s)
Barrier Reef (Old 97s)
Drag It Up (Old 97s)
Eyes For You (Old 97s)
Long Long Long
Let the Whiskey Take the Reins (Old 97s)
Bird in a Cage (Old 97s)
Victoria (Old 97s)
Big Brown Eyes (Old 97s)
Doreen (Old 97s)
California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
Timebomb (Old 97s)
Jack the Necrophiliac (Old 97s)
The One (Old 97s)