A couple days before this show, I got a contrasting pair of emails from friends with extra tickets to 2 concerts the same night: M. Ward and Tool. I had never seen either one, and like both, though I know Tool a lot better and like them more. So my inclination was more towards seeing Tool, but the relative price of tickets and choice of venue led me to choose M. Ward instead (didn’t really feel like hauling my way out to GMU for Tool; besides I have seen enough big-name bands for the summer).
Anyway I made it to the 930 in time to catch some of the opening act, and lo and behold! There on stage was none other than Ian Svenonius! I had no idea he was performing — wouldn’t have guessed he’d open for M. Ward. He was with a new-ish band that I knew little about, called Chain and the Gang. If I had known, of course, I would have gone earlier. I’m definitely a fan. The last time I saw the sassiest boy in America in performance was probably around 4 years ago with Weird War. I thought Weird War were great; I was a little less sold on Chain and the Gang but want to check it out more. Ian told some typical amusing stories and I dug the last song, all about deathbed confessions and tying them into various conspiracy theories.
I can’t find video from the show the other night (or the Friday night show with the same line-up) but here is a youtube rendition of “Deathbed Confession” from a few months back. Not super quality, but you get the sense of it. And here is their myspace.
So for M. Ward, I was a little unsure what to expect. I had only listened to him here and there, a few downloaded songs, internet radio stations, etc. Honestly I wasn’t expecting to like him that much — I’m predisposed to dislike everyone these days that has blog hype, hipster cred, and is a singer-songwriter. I mean, ugh, singer-songwriters. I have also been eternally leery of his going by “M. Ward,” rather than “Matt,” finding it sort of pretentious and a rip-off of M. Doughty. ALSO: Zooey Deschanel?
But it turned out to be a great show. The music wasn’t especially innovative or anything, and I thought that Ward (should I call him “M.”?) didn’t really utilize the band enough, but everything was thoroughly enjoyable. They did covers of “Rave On” (highly rearranged) and “Roll Over Beethoven” (more like the version we all remember); when M. played piano it reminded me of old-fashioned Jerry Lee Lewis-style rock and roll. I have been into that kind of stuff lately so was pleased to hear it. I guess overall the performance seemed to me like a cross between ’00s alt-rock (i.e., Wilco) and Jerry Lee-style ’50s/’60s rock and roll. This is a good combination. There maybe was a little tiny bit of Tom Waits in there as well.
(On the other hand, I was reminded of how dull it can be to watch a rock musician play the piano. I think the reason piano mainly dropped out of rock and roll is that it is not interesting to watch a guy play piano and croon. I mean, compared to playing guitar. It’s more interesting than a laptop, though…)
The crowd was pretty pleased and the reviews were good. It didn’t really change my impression of M. Ward too much, but it was a solid, fun show. (Of course I was in a pretty good mood after unexpectedly seeing Ian S. perform…)
The 930 Club made a special point that night about “no videos, no flash photography” and I can’t find much of anything in the way of videos from the show. So I’ll wrap up with the weird official video for “Rave On”: