An Evening with the Reigning Sound and Last Year’s Men

29 Apr

I have a tendency to build my heroes up in my mind to a point where they could not possibly meet my expectations.  It happened the first time I saw Bob Dylan in concert.  I watched as he dropped his harmonica mid-song and kicked it across the stage in an attempt to bend over and pick it up.  Then there was Jack White. He played just fine I’m sure, but I had made him into such a myth-like figure that I don’t think anything he did could have satisfied my impossible standards, and so I left unsatisfied.  Since those encounters, I’ve made myself unavailable when certain people come to Chicago.  So it was no surprise that when Thursday night rolled around, I told my friends, who had made plans to go with me days earlier, I was “too tired” to go. Thankfully, they didn’t buy it.

As we walked into the Empty Bottle, Last Year’s Men, from Chapel Hill, was just about ready to start.  They had the recklessness of the Black Lips, though they seemed more in touch with their influences (I’m assuming The Seeds and maybe DC5?). They finished their set, tackling each other on stage during the final song.

With what seemed like a 5 minute wait, Greg Cartwright and the rest of the Reigning Sound popped out of a door that read “Bands Only,” and walked to the stage.  From the very first second they plugged in, the requests came pouring out. “Stormy Weather” is clearly the fan favorite.  The set list for me is a giant blur, which I can only attribute to the $2.50 Old Styles, but the Reigning Sound played several songs off of Too Much Guitar, my favorite album of any Greg Cartwright project.  It took only a moment for Greg Cartwright the myth to exit and for The Reigning Sound to enter. With his spastic head shake, Greg ripped through just about every Reigning Sound song a fan could want to hear, as well as a few favorites from his past bands, The Compulsive Gamblers (“Stop and Think It Over”) and The Oblivians (“Bad Man”).

One thing that was missed in an otherwise flawless set was the backup singing on songs like “Stormy Weather” and “Your Love Is a Fine Thing,” but the packed Empty Bottle crowd was obliged to help out.

When they had finished their set, Greg went back through the “Bands Only” door from which he came, leaving the other two members mingling with friends in the crowd.  I took the opportunity to throw in a request to the bass player, David Wayne Gay.  I asked for “If You Can’t Give Me Everything” during the encore.  His response showed me that even Greg’s bandmates put him on a pedestal.  He said, “You need to talk to the man with the guitar.  I’ll tell him, but we haven’t played that one in a long time.”  They didn’t play it, but I have little to complain about.

If the cheapest seats weren’t over $100, I might now have the nerve to see Elvis Costello in May.

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