It was purely a lemonade-out-of-lemons kind of event, and boy was it sweet. Granted, one big factor that contributed to Friday night’s triumphant, notch-above showing by Dr. Dog at First Avenue was the simple fact that the Philly twang-bop rockers are touring behind one mighty charming album. “Be the Void” is their best one in a decade-plus career and one of this year’s best all-around. Those buoyant, infectious new songs provided many high points in the nearly two-hour set – and there several more key cuts off the record that didn’t even get played.
The real fuel for Friday’s fiery performance, however, might’ve been the satisfaction of the rebound. Dr. Dog was one of the 30 or so bands left gigless on a prime summer weekend night after the cancellation of the SoundTown at Somerset Amphitheater. The band could certainly take some satisfaction out of the fact that they packed the club just a week and a half after the makeup show was announced.
“To be honest,” bassist/co-vocalist Toby Leaman started but then stopped himself mid-show, when it was clear things were turning out swimmingly. “Well, I won’t be honest, but we were supposed to be playing this festival. We’d already bought our airplane tickets, and … well, I love playing this place.”
After the older opening cut “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” the sextet rolled right into two of the new gems, “These Days” and “That Old Black Hole,” both bouncy, rollicking and already familiar enough for singalong accompaniment from the crowd. “Be the Void,” “Be the Void’s” most powerful track, “Vampire,” became the climactic centerpiece of the show, along with the stormy jam “Shame, Shame.” Those wicked air left by those numbers turned warm, fuzzy, and blissful with the pre-encore finish “Shadow People” and “Lonesome,” the latter perfectly punctuated with “hey!” cries from the audience.
In between, the group dropped in older favorites such as “Stranger,” “Hang On” and “From” along with several weird but wonderful selections, including “Easy Beat” and “The Breeze.” The encore stretched on for a half hour with “I Only Wear Blue,” “Die, Die, Die,” “My Friend” and “Heart It Races.” It seemed as if the band was paying thanks for the memorable makeshift gig. After this one, though, Dr. Dog can probably drum up a crowd here at a moment’s notice if need be.