Vic Chesnutt & Elf Power: Modified Arts, Phoenix, AZ 11/8/08

Having recorded albums with Widespread Panic, Bill Frissell and Lambchop as his backing bands, Vic Chesnutt is no stranger to collaborations.  He’s also no stranger to revealing his complicated view of the world through a chaste vulnerability that reveals un-hesitated pain and insecurities.  Dark Developments, his most recent collaboration with fellow Athens, GA and Elephant 6 members Elf Power, transforms his dark lyrics amidst pop melodies that shine the artist in a new dimension.

Following a 45 minute set from Elf Power, where front-man Andrew Rieger couldn’t help but comment four days post election day, “I hear John McCain is here?”  Someone from the crowd responded, “he’s in Sedona,”  leaving Rieger to justify, “he must be getting some mystic healing.” The five piece soon set up alongside Chesnutt unplugged style, as Chesnutt played to the small 50+ crowd in a partical artspace/music room in Phoenix’s art district.

As a paraplegic its difficult overlook the fact that Chesnutt is confined to a wheelchair, but he sings like a man with full use of all limbs: flexible, confident and dark. Slouched mildly in his chair with a flat brimmed hat slouched over his brim, Chesnutt never appeared too comfortable as the front-man, but that’s excusable as its his job to communicate through words- not actions.  Chesnutt was quick with a comeback to the audiences’ free-flowing comments, whether smart ass or witty, even managing to make light of one of his off beat song titles – “Little Fucker” – which was actually wrote in reference to himself,

Playing eight out of the nine songs on Dark Developments, the band ran the spectrum from the pop melodies of “Bilocating Dog,"  the eerie wordplay of “Mystery,” to the catchy rhymes of “We Are Mean.”  Showing all due respect and admiration for their touring mate,  Elf Power played as the humble steady back-up band, leaving the spotlight for Chesnutt to tell his stories.   Following a 15 minute rendition of “Independence Day,” the crowd could only leave to say thanks and admit they just  witnessed an iconic artist, that unfortunately a core group only still knows and appreciates.

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