Every now and then it’s good to get your head rattled a bit by a good rock show. Monday night, the native sons of Providence, Rhode Island rolled into town and blew the roof off of Carrboro’s newly reconfigured Cat’s Cradle. Over the course of 19 songs and 90 minutes, guitarist-singer John McCauley, lead guitarist and Last Waltz-era Robbie Robertson doppelganger Ian O’Neil, keyboardist/saxophonist Rob Crowell, bassist Chris Ryan and his drummer brother Dennis plowed through their set with an unbridled and furious burst of energy that enthusiastically resonated with the amped-up crowd who filled the floor, looking to sing, dance, and fist-pump their way through the evening.
Taking the stage sharply dressed in suits, the band shared a brief anecdote about the digestive repercussions of their Chinese dinner before launching into “The Bump”, the howling first track off of their swell new album, Divine Providence, before seamlessly transitioning into fan favorite “Easy”. Many surefire moments of brilliance ensued, including a stripped-down, jazzy version of “Ashamed” featuring McCauley solo at the mike crooning like Sinatra and Crowell ripping off a silky smooth sax solo in the song’s middle. McCauley later gave the band a brief respite and serenaded the crowd with a charming version of “Diamond Rings 2007”, much to the delight of those who had been hollering for that one since the show’s opening.
A couple years of continuous touring has done Deer Tick well as they were able to confidently and stridently command the room with their ability and presence. There was more of the thunderous stomp that the band has perfected, highlighted on tracks like “Funny Word”, “Something to Brag About”, and a cover of The Replacements’ gem “Bastards of Young” that made you swear it was 1984 and Westerberg was on stage. Like on the new album, there was some rearranging too, as O’Neil and Dennis Ryan were given space to take a crack at frontman duties. O’Neil’s contributions, “Walkin’ Out The Door” and “Now It’s Your Turn” gave the set a nice contrasting change of pace and Ryan’s “Clownin’ Around” provided one of the night’s highlights as he faithfully belted out the song’s earnest lyrics with muscle and emotion. There were also the on-stage antics that are already making Deer Tick shows a spectacle to behold. During the encore, McCauley leapt to the drum risers to help Ryan pound away on the cymbals while O’Neil ripped off solos from the top of the amps. McCauley capped off the performance by shaking a can of Coors Original, spraying the center of the crowd, and then pouring the remaining contents all over his face while the band raged on behind him. And this review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the supreme “You had to be there” moment featuring McCauley’s and O’Neil’s face to face guitar square-off during “These Old Shoes” that culminated in a “I-shit-you-not “ tongue and all make-out session between the two. Never ones to shy away from a good performance, Deer Tick have once again raised the bar for other bands of their ilk to attempt to reach. The air of surprise and uncertainty, combined with expert musicianship is what makes a good rock show. Deer Tick has both of these requirements down pat.
Photos by Gerry Hardy