Photo by Steve Cross.
The Spin hasn't had our coffee yet, but we do have photos for you from last night's Silver Jews show. That's not David Berman pictured above, in case you were wondering. That's Levi "Ha Haziz" (Yomtov) Elvis of Monotonix.
More to come....
Update: After some technical difficulties, we now have some tardy Spinanegans for you re: Silver Jews.
The line outside the Exit/In wrapped around Elliston Place Sunday night. The delay this caused our entry meant that the Monotonix got started without us. After catching their now infamous Springwater shows this past year, we were curious as to how their downright dangerous unpredictability would translate in a larger club. Sure enough, when we walked into the club, the stage was littered with people who were very obviously not in the band. The crowd pulsed around the middle of the room where the Tel Aviv trio had set up, and we were told there were no flaming drums this time around. Even still, the band made no other concessions for the seemingly more professional setting. Lead singer Levi "Ha Haziz" (Yomtov) Elvis spent a majority of his time elevated above people's heads, and when he sprinted up to the balcony and crouched atop to command the crowd from high above, few below did not see his scrotum hanging out of his short shorts.
But when Elvis commands a crowd to “Shut the fuck up,” they laugh, then shut the fuck up. Few frontmen possess that kind of crowd control, especially shirtless, hairy ones with no microphone and their balls hanging out. The last “song” consisted of the band counting down from ten, then back up to four and diving into the audience while everyone danced to make-believe music. This is what the Silver Jews have been following night after night.
And maybe the Monotonix have rubbed off on David Berman just a little bit. The Jews first honest-to-goodness rock show was just three short years ago at the End. At that not-so-secret secret show, a reluctant Berman nervously introduced his long catalog to a new setting, while a room full of big smiles looked as if they all just wanted was to give Berman a hug. High fives would have probably been more appropriate on Sunday night, as a noticeably more confident Berman led his band through opener “I'm Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You,” looking something like a cross between a beat poet and a lounge singer. Snaking his way around the stage—either as an attempt to channel his inner Neil Diamond or because of the brace we noticed on his wrist—Berman played guitar on very few songs.
The set was a patchwork of the band's nearly 15 years of output. Songs from their latest, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, were well received, with “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat” taking on a near anthemic identity. Songs like “Pretty Eyes” and “Horseleg Swastikas” appeased the more cultish division of Silver Jews fandom, while the classics of the Jews cannon—”Random Rules,” “Smith and Jones Forever,” “Trains Across the Sea”—were met with yelps and woos at each opening chord. Berman and wife Cassie had been exchanging cutesy glances all night, so the encore rendition of “Tennessee” felt even more warm and fuzzy than usual, and after “Punks in the Beerlight” it was Berman who started doling out the hugs. This wasn't just appreciation; it was love to the max.