Golden Smog – Bowery Ballroom (New York, NY)
To add to the buzzing anticipation of Golden Smog’s first sighting in New York since 1998, the all-star band scheduled not one but two shows at the intimate Bowery Ballroom. Since the group’s inception in the early ’90s, an impressive rotating cast of players have done time in this largely Twin Cities-based side-project.
At the helm from the start and still creatively conducting traffic is a formidable foursome: Gary Louris, Dan Murphy, Kraig Johnson and Marc Perlman. At the Bowery, this quartet seamlessly and unselfishly maneuvered through revolving roles on lead vocals, guitar, bass, keys and harmonica. Previous Golden Smog drummers include alums of the Replacements, Big Star and Honeydogs; the addition of Linda Pitmon (Steve Wynn’s Miracle 3, Zuzu’s Petals) preserved the historical integrity of the role.
Louris seems to appear most loose onstage when he’s with his beloved Golden Smog brethren. Vocally, he was in fine form, particularly on an emotive “Jennifer Save Me” and a soaring late-set performance of the band’s longtime cover favorite, “Fooled Around And Fell In Love”. Murphy’s contributions included trading leads with Louris and singing “Red Headed Stepchild” (from their Down By The Old Mainstream disc) and a feisty rocker, “Insecure”, purportedly the first song he ever wrote.
Though Golden Smog performances have been scarce in recent years and their last album came out six years ago, the band’s original material has stood the test of time. Their harmony-intensive arsenal was highlighted on the back-to-back pairing of “Looking Forward To Seeing You” and “Won’t Be Coming Home”. And there was no shortage of entertaining covers; they tackled everything from Split Enz to the Stones, even hauling out the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” as a segue into a spirited take on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”.
Kraig Johnson, perhaps the band’s secret weapon, drove home the evening’s pinnacle, a passionate five-guitar assault (including special guests Steven Wynn and David Poe) on Neil Young’s “Powderfinger”. Louris took the helm for the second and final encore with a geographically fitting rendition of the Fugs’ “Nova Slum Goddess”, leaving the crowd yearning for a return appearance sometime before 2011.