Holy crap, I am so far behind on my live music reviews that they are threatening to withhold my paycheck here at BRP. I better get on with getting 'em done, right?
Anyway, months ago the Old 97's rolled into town at the Ardmore Music Hall. To put this band into BRP perspective, I was at one time in danger of becoming a groupie of these guys. Seriously, I think I've seen the Old 97's or Rhett Miller, their frontman, about 9 or 10 times. It got to the point where we were exchanging Christmas cards and such (well, not quite that bad, but I think that Rhett recognized me one time).
However, I then went into an Old 97's hiatus and didn't catch them for a few years. And then of course, came the lockdowns [on that point, aren't you sick of the lockdowns being called "the pandemic?" Hey, politicians, it wasn't the pandemic that locked us down, it was YOU! Now, back to our normal scheduled programming.] When I saw that the Old 97's were coming to AMH, which is just so convenient, I jumped at the chance to catch them live again.
Before I quickly comment on the band, let me say this about AMH. Unlike a number of other venues out there, the owners of this fine establishment took the opportunity presented by the lockdowns to improve the facility. They spent about $500k to update it. I was looking forward to a better concert experience. I must say that the bathrooms are better, and they were in desperate need of improvement (and they still lack the immaculate cleanliness of Union Transfer - no joke, UT could be in Japan given how clean their restrooms are - two massive thumbs up to those guys). And the acoustics are improved, which is fantastic. Other than that, I didn't really notice anything. But kudos all around anyway!
The Old 97's had Cliff Hillis open for them, and I was kind of enthused about that. I've heard some of Cliff's tunes and thought he might be good. But when he showed up alone and with an acoustic guitar, the "uh oh" dread of the lonesome troubadour swept through the crowd. And true to form, it was exactly what you would expect. Boring and lackluster? Yes, and more than that, but the verbage escapes me at the moment (I guess that's adjectives not verbs, right? Who cares, this isn't school). Anyway, it was completely forgettable and made me lose interest in Hillis or his career. Oops, I guess that's the downside of being an opener.
On to the Old 97's!
First things first - what's up with Rhett Miller's hair? This guy used to cause the girls to swoon, but that doesn't mean he has to adopt their hair styles, right? It was weird. And he's no spring chicken anymore - 52 years old - so he should know better from life experience if nothing else.
But the guy can still sing, and he still has stage charisma. Not only that, he's been at the game for a long time now and he has the ability to draw from a deep catalog of great tunes. Thankfully, Rhett did just that, and the band put on a rollicking 2 hour set that had the gremmies fired up and wanting more. Don't believe me? How about this tune from waaaay back that still gets everyone going, Barrier Reef:
That was just one of the oldies but goodies that the boys played at AMH. It made the Kid nostalgic for all of those shows that I had seen before. Here's another one that is a keeper and always played, Big Brown Eyes:
The band was in good form - tight on the rhythms, laughing and playing with the audience, and going from great track to great track in crowd-pleasing manner. They played Rollerskate Skinny, Murder or a Heart Attack, Oppenheimer and many more that had me lose my blogger cool and cheer like mad just like in the old days. It was fun and rewarding to be enjoying this band once again.
I think I got some good, but not great, pictures that night. I'm a bit rusty with the iPhone, and the lighting always determines whether it's a keeper or not. Anyway, I hope you like them. One nice thing about AMH is that I know a great place to stand that is not too hot and crowded but that has good sight lines (of course, it wouldn't be good if there was a fire or I had to use the restroom, but life is full of these compromises).
The one beef is that the band didn't play Champaign, Illinois. It's one of their great tunes, and it was conspicuous by its absence. But that is a small complaint. The rest of the show was terrific and made up for the lack of one song. But did it make up for Cliff Hillis? Hmmmm, let's just say that the boys need some stronger openers.
Here's a couple more pics and then I'm outta here. See you soon.
One last comment - if you look at the pics, you can see some people wearing masks at the show. Hahahahahahaha! You'll be happy to know that your humble blogger took his off and went "mask commando" that night! Rock on, BRP readers.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.