Dr. Dog: The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, MI 4/15/10

With their latest album Shame, Shame, Dr. Dog take a step into themselves as we receive the voice of modern working class psychedelia. With every album, it’s not so much the cliché that they are moving forward as they are exploring different aspects of the music they create: lo-fi records, hi-fi records, indie, pop, psychedelic.

On the face, Shame, Shame is a simpler recording approach than their previous effort Fate, nodding more to earlier albums We All Belong and Easy Beat. But deeper, Shame, Shame is a beautiful mix of these contradictions. It keeps the grit, but stays as intricate as Fate, accomplishing the complexity with one of the most challenging tasks in music, making an album that sounds honestly natural while still retaining all of the depth.  The album marks a contemplative, inward look into the music Dr. Dog creates.

Like the sleigh bells signaling the jump on Shame, Shame, the jingle of “Stranger” would begin the night as  Dr. Dog came to Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig. What makes the latest batch of songs from Shame, Shame so lively in concert is, that despite the barebones production, the songs are still so full, that live, with the additions of all the nuances of all their live arsenal: varied harmonies, an acoustic guitar here, a shaker there, the songs take on a whole new life as they are almost overflowing. 

Also joining the five regular members of Dr. Dog was Dimitri Manos, who played percussion and guitar occasionally, and the addition of a stripped down, but attentive light show. Small things, like the simplistic whirling organ of Zach Miller and echo laden guitar of Scott McMicken during “I Only Wear Blue,” make for little ties to pull the whole show together. All six musicians seem to fluently flow through these songs, limbs swirling around the stage.

Although he left some of his howl off Shame, Shame, bassist Toby Leaman hasn’t lost that quick snarl and skin curling scream that he executes so beautifully on songs like “Army of Ancients.”  Thematic chaotic light chases during “Mirror Mirror” are…well…mirrored on stage by the band thrashing through the small dingy club’s mirrored side walls as they are immersed in the washes of light.  The waving caroms of the guitar harmonies of’ “The Ark” saunter up and down before leading into one of only two songs of the evening that we written before 2008’s Fate, with We All Belong’s “The Way The Lazy Do.”

“The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer,” a guaranteed high energy, usual closing song, landed squarely in the middle of gentle interlude to wind up the energy through the roof, as it was bookended by the slower “Station” and “Someday,” both of which highlight the quiet, softer aspects of Leaman’s vocal range with a smooth high and low wave. Another warm whirl of the organ from Miller leads into “Where’d All The Time Go?” lead by McMicken’s vocal line, before it is capped with a loaded solo from guitarist Frank McElroy that fuels the crashing end climax before the thud into the slow churn of “The Beach.”

Next “Hang On,” would again be driven by Miller’s flailing across his keyboards before “Shadow People” started starkly with McMicken’s voice over an acoustic strum  finally building into an undeniable humming rattle before exploding into the piano saunter and surf guitar ping. To close the hour and half set, they sprinkled in their only other older track,  closing with the road weary travel diary of We All Belong’s “Worst Trip.”

After a quick break, the six-piece returned for an encore to wrap up the entire show, blending the endings to their last two albums. “Jackie Wants A Black Eye” and the closing title track of Shame, Shame, both led into the weaving “My Friend,” Fate’s closing track. “Jackie” is sparse live, accented with merely a chorus of hand claps and McMicken’s lone acoustic guitar, leading smoothly into the slide guitar amble of “Shame, Shame.” To close the show, “My Friend,” intertwines the themes coursing though the evenings trailing psychedelic levels.

The Philly psych rockers seem so effortlessly locked into the basics of these songs that they are able to pinpoint what they want to add live at will. As guitarist Scott McMicken told Glide earlier, “…what that always comes down to –and I realize this more and more we’re a band–is your level of performance. It can be a song of three instruments, if you can really hone that part, and play off everybody else, and really find your space, the song will lack nothing.”

The Stranger
I Only Wear Blue
The Old Days
Army of Ancients
The Breeze
Mirror, Mirror
The Ark
The Way The Lazy Do
Rabbit, Bat & The Reindeer
Where’d All The Time Go?
The Beach
Unbearable Why
Hang On
Shadow People
Worst Trip
Jackie Wants A Black Eye
Shame, Shame
My Friend

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