If Thursday’s underplay gig by Dr. Dog at the Turf Club was intended as a warmup to the band’s pair of shows Friday and Saturday at First Avenue, then there’s a distinct possibility some fans might actually melt over the next two nights. Please be advised.
The Philly-bred pop-and-soul hippie rockers hadn’t played a local venue this small since the 400 Bar in 2009. Perhaps a nod to that era of the band – or maybe just a fun way of mixing up the set list over three nights – they pulled heavily from their underrated 2008 album “Fate” on Thursday. They played six of its 11 tracks, including four right off the bat (or: right off “The Rabbit, the Bat & the Reindeer,” the show’s opening tune). The highlight was “Army of Ancients,” an early hint of the surprisingly sophisticated doo-woppy harmonies that were especially prevalent on last year’s record, “B-Room.”
Sporting cheap truck-stop sunglasses and their usual patch-quilt variety attire, the guys seemed to understand they were playing to the diehards Thursday – fans who nabbed the 300 tickets right away and didn’t care it fell on a weeknight. The crowd also didn’t seem to mind that the band left out many of its best-loved and most-played tunes, including “These Days,” “Shadow People” and “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” numbers that can surely be expected Friday and Saturday.
In addition to the “Fate” fare, they reached even farther back with “Mystery to Me” and slipped in some deeper cuts off their last two albums, including the quirky jammer “Cuckoo” and the heavy-hitting “Be the Void.” No hyperbole, the ecstatic energy in the room never wavered over 90 minutes. So you can imagine how enraptured the place was when the Dog team finally kicked up their standard sing-alongs “That Old Black Hole” and “Lonesome” toward the end of the set.
Wisconsin openers Phox wouldn’t be so lucky. The audience only feigned mild interest in their pretty, smart but sometimes too precious orchestral folk-pop. Even their Current hit “Slow Motion” wasn’t enough to get people to stop yacking. Perhaps First Ave having less of a corner-bar vibe than the Turf means the Phox kids will fare better there (they open both those shows, too). At the time of this posting, Saturday’s concert was listed as sold-out, and a very limited number of tickets were reportedly available for tonight.
Here’s Thursday’s set list:
The Rabbit, the Bat & the Reindeer / Hang On / Over Here, Over There / 100 Years / Heavy Light / The Beach / Mystery to Me / Army of Ancients / Be the Void / Stranger / ?? / Cuckoo / The Breeze / Broken Heart / That Old Black Hole ENCORE: Heart It Races / How Long Must I Wait / Lonesome / F--- It