LIVE: Minus 5, The Baseball Project, Steve Wynn IV @ Valentine’s, 9/21/09
1984. The Agora Ballroom. Hartford, Connecticut. The Dream Syndicate opens for R.E.M. Karl Precoda tears the ringing opening notes of “Tell Me When It’s Over” out of an impossibly loud Gibson, and by the time the first chorus desperately thunders out of the shaking PA all is right with the world.
2009. Valentine’s. Albany, New York. The Steve Wynn IV is The Baseball Project is The Minus 5. Peter Buck glides the ringing opening notes of “Tell Me When It’s Over” out of a jangling Rickenbacker, and by the time all the paunchy, balding 45-year-old white guys are bopping their heads to the first chorus all is right with the world again, at least on that little stretch of New Scotland Avenue.
R.E.M.’s Buck, along with Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey and Linda Pitmon make up the kind of supergroup that can easily draw about 80 people to a nightclub on a Monday night – which probably says as much about apathy as it does about the economy. Still, those in attendance were treated to old school college rock by a bunch of dads who could easily afford to not be on the road.
In keeping with the recently released album, “The Baseball Project,” Buck, Wynn, McCaughey and drummer Linda Pitmon (by Grabthar’s hammer, she’s good) offered up a clutch of songs about dudes hitting stuff with sticks, but they also slid through the back catalog for rumbling classics like Gutterball’s “Trial Separation Blues,” the Syndicate’s “Days of Wine and Roses” and a beautiful, howling McCaughey-led take of Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues.”
But the best stuff wasn’t just nostalgia.
Wynn’s latest solo offering, “Crossing Dragon Bridge,” has been called his masterpiece, and “Manhattan Fault Line” backed up those claims, with Pitmon wailing away at the harmonies as well as the skins. And McCaughey scored with the late-night ballad, “Cigarettes, Coffee and Booze.”
Throughout, Buck and McCaughey traded bass and guitar duties, but Wynn stayed close to his six-string, and the setup allowed him room to solo in that distinctive strangled Lou Reed/Neil Young (there he is again) way that has served him throughout his career.
After two full sets, The Minus Project IV came back for enough encores to qualify as a show on their own, including an ace blast of The Sonics’ “Strychnine” sung – with Seattle vengeance – by McCaughey.
That’s just the blustery kind of song dads like to sing on a Monday night to make other dads feel like they’re at a rock show.
But you missed it. Hope the TV shows were good.
Review by Bokonon