“What a special room this is,” said Oliver Wood, at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Massachusetts, last Thursday. “We’ve been around, and there aren’t many like this.” He shared this just prior to playing “Postcards from Hell,” a song he dedicated to the musicians and artists in the house.
Although at times it felt like a seated theater was a constraint for the folks in the audience who wanted to dance, it was the perfect setting for the band to uncork new songs from Paradise, released just a week ago, and to explore new arrangements for some of their tried and true classics. This was my third Wood Brothers show, and I have never seen them play this well. It was stunning.
They opened with “The Muse,” and the immediately shifted to a new song, “Never and Always,” both of which highlight their fantastic harmony vocals. I expected a few new songs at this point, but they turned back the clock to “Shoofly Pie,” “Lovin’ Arms,” and “Mary Anna.” Oliver mentioned they wrote “Lovin’ Arms” about their mother; it was spare and beautiful.
Chris Wood took a turn on lead vocals for “The Shore,” featuring its easy bassline melody and then they returned to Paradise, this time for the absolute ripper “Snake Eyes.” This tune should be on every set list — it’s just too much fun.
Chris played a mesmerizing piece with his bow before they went into “Who the Devil” from The Muse. Aside from one person who yelled, “We love you, Chris,” the audience was pin-drop quiet during his solo. It was a good audience that way — folks who knew that one of the best ways to show appreciation for the music is to shut up.
Chris played another jaw-dropping solo as an intro to “Atlas” and then picked up the electric bass for the last three songs of their set: “Singing to Strangers,” “Wasting My Mind,” and “Honey Jar.” The band was having a blast — shimmying and dancing around the stage. They clearly had “that feeling” they sing about in “Singing to Strangers.”
To begin the encore, Jano Rix began playing piano in a style most reminiscent of Dr. John. After a minute, that familiar melody for “Luckiest Man” emerged. God damn, it was perfect.
Oliver switched guitars and they launched into “Ophelia,” trading verses and getting everyone clapping, dancing, and singing to close it out. It’s hard to imagine, but these guys just keep getting better.
-review by Ken Templeton