Robert McCreedy – Vredenburg (Utrecht, Netherlands)
Detroit native and former Volebeats member Robert McCreedy recently pulled up stakes and moved to Minneapolis — home of Bellwether, who joined him on his latest jaunt through Europe. With such talents on board, sporting a keen knack for wistful ballads and melodic pop hooks, this seemed a pairing that couldn’t fail. Sadly, it did, sort of.
Shuffling onstage to a room full of “mature” music lovers, McCreedy, backed by Bellwether’s rhythm section (Phil Tippin on bass and Mick Wirtz on drums), guitarist/vocalist Dana Thompson, and Jimmy Johnson on pedal steel, looked almost apologetic for being there. The slow burn of “Holding On”, taken from his album Streamline, enraptured the silent audience, and was quickly followed by the Volebeats gem “It’s Alright”.
However, rather than play to the crowd, McCreedy seemed to “wanna stay an anonymous man” (to borrow a line from his song “Diana”). As the cowboy hat slid farther down his face, the singer gave the impression he’d rather be somewhere else. The songs were fine, performed ably by the band, but where were the dynamics? For a man who reportedly left his last band because they didn’t want to tour, McCreedy didn’t seem ripe for the road on this night either.
Bellwether’s Eric Luoma, looking somewhat like a cross between Ryan Adams’ nerdy cousin and actor Tobey Maguire, definitely has that rock-star presence. He knows how to write songs, even if they do sometimes sound a little like the Jayhawks in their younger days.
Bellwether opened with “The Lake”, a haunting, spatial song from their third album Home Late, and you could hear a pin drop in the room. In fact, it wasn’t until their fifth song, the more upbeat “Afterthoughts”, that Bellwether decided to let loose and have some fun.
But they certainly did, with Luoma even telling the audience that the group was “thinkin’ about movin’ here” at one time or another. In the wake of McCreedy’s introverted set, the later time slot suited Bellwether, even if it took too long to get to the meat and bones of the evening, with somewhat lackluster performances all around.