I had the pleasure of seeing the Old 97's perform at The Metro late late Saturday night (the excellent Damnwells opened to an – unfortunately – unenthusiastic crowd) and was struck by the maxim “the more things change the more they stay the same.
Fist off, the group seems to have returned to its roots since all the new songs had a more pronounced twang and the shiny pop that saturated their last two albums was less-pervasive. The principals were all there and I was further convinced that their truly secret weapon is the terrific beats pounded out by drummer Philip Peebles is what separated ‘em from all else labeled “insurgent country.” Just as it was, eh?
Well, not quite. Leader Rhett miller has gone totally Italian Vogue with super-expensive print shirts, peg-legged slacks and a haircut that must’ve cost more than a murder and a heart attack. The man always used to toss his hair about on stage but the flippity-floppity of his shiny locks reached a cartoonish level and briefly distracted me. I guess that’s what happens when you move from Dallas to New York and marry a model. Well, as long as he keeps kicking out great tunes I could carte less how he looks.
That’s what made Saturday night’s show all the more enjoyable. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen the group at the release party for their last album held at Schuba’s and I thought the band I saw Saturday was in much better condition than the group I saw at Schuba’s a few years ago. Maybe Rhett going solo was a good thing for them since he seems to have been able to use that experience to mine the poppier fields of his imagination allowing the Old 97’s proper to freely kick some musical ass.