Rocking New York’s Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) on Friday, December 7th, Perkins & co. hit up every song from his debut LP, Ash Wednesday, plus a whole host of newer material that have become fan favorites. With numerous dedications, guests, and a super-excited crowd, Elvis Perkins in Dearland finished out the year right.
For such a rollicking show, the set opened on a very subdued note with “Good Friday”; the hymnal grew so gradually one could be forgiven for not noticing when the performance began. But there was nothing unnoticeable about the following “May Day!”, the shambling, upbeat, crowd-pleasing sing-along. This one-two – with a flawless transition in-between – set the night’s tone, as a mix of slow, sad, heart-on-Perkins’-sleeve pieces were juxtaposed with old-timey dance hall numbers that invited crowd participation. The bright “Hey!” was similar to “May Day!” in more than just the exclamation point, but it also had drummer Nicolas Kinsey on the big, strapped-on marching drum, which automatically made it excellent. Things got a lot slower after that, with Perkins putting himself out there on Ash Wednesday’s title track, “Moon Woman II”, and “It’s a Sad World After All”, but the quality didn’t suffer (though Perkins did say, for “Sad”, they were going to “do a new take on an old song”, yet it wasn’t all that different).
Elvis Perkins in Dearland playing "Ash Wednesday" live @ Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY:
More and more as the night went on, Perkins really began to banter with the audience – and everybody else. He introduced many of the songs, including the traditional “Weeping Pilgrim”, “This is a dance hit of the fifties – the eighteen-fifties.” When Kinsey, bassist Brigham Bough, and guitarist/accordionist Wyndham Boylan-Garnett – better know as ‘Dearland’ – left the stage for him to do “It’s Only Me” solo, he reassured the crowd, “I have a feeling you’ll see them again”. And afterwards, as Dearland returned, he had a friend in the crowd make a phone call to Jackie, his tour manager, who couldn’t be there – and had the audience yell, “Thank you, Jackie.” in a clipped monotone, “like a robot.”
Elvis Perkins playing "It's Only Me", solo, live @ Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY:
Perkins dedicated the following new song to Jackie, a quiet, untitled piece with a great accordion part near the end, thanks to Boylan-Garnett, later dedicated another accordion-heavy new song, this one with a title, “Shampoo”, to his brother Oz in the crowd, and the unreleased fan favorite “Impromptu Variations on a Theme by Phil Spector” to a former background singer. In between, Perkins and Dearland hit up some great renditions of Ash tracks like the recently re-released “All the Night Without Love” (“You can find it exclusively on a little site called ‘iTunes’…”), “Emil’s Vietnam In the Sky”, “The Night and the Liquor,” and “Sleep Sandwich”. Ash Wednesday was recorded before there was a Dearland for Elvis Perkins to be in, and now pretty much every number takes a step up from the album thanks to them.
Elvis Perkins in Dearland playing "All the Night Without Love" live @ Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY:
The fun, affected, hippie-dippie folk-rock of “Phil Spector” led into the night’s natural closer, “1-2-3 Goodbye”. But everybody returned from the encore break to hit up an excited version of the final Wednesday track of the night, “While You Were Sleeping”. But the good times hit their peak with the following “Doomsday”, a big, world-wise, old-timey ‘dance while the world ends around you’ number, that featured Oz Perkins on drums (leaving Kinsey free to wear & rock the drum) and opener Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) on some crazy guitar. And Perkins gave a sweet fare-the-well in “Sweet Rosy-Anna”, with all of Dearland on backing vocals only.
Many of Perkins’ staunch fans in the crowd (which included director Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore) considered this the best they’ve seen the band. Elvis Perkins announced that this would be the last show for a while, possibly until next summer, and, to be fair, the now-bearded singer/songwriter did look like he could use a rest. It’s been a crazy year for him, from Ash Wednesday coming out to teaming up with Dearland to appearing on Letterman to touring with everyone from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to Willy Mason. And while it did take a little while for his personality to warm up, he and Dearland were on form from the beginning, making sure they ended this year with a bang.