Ian Moore; October 18, 2008; Vnuk’s Lounge, Cudahy WI
OK, so I broke my foot, that certainly wasn’t going to prevent me from seeing Ian Moore at the cozy Vnuk’s Lounge in Cudahy, a city that seems to be made up of nothing but inviting local bars, cozy pizza places and the cheapest gas prices I’ve seen in Wisconsin. I was especially anxious to see him tonight after he had to cancel a trip this summer that would have brought him to the Steel Bridge Song Fest and back to the basement. His show with Kullen Fuchs at the House of Righteous Music still ranks as one of my favorites. This time through the Midwest he was traveling with a full band that included bass player Matt Harris and drummer Kyle Schneider in addition to Kullen. If the more than half empty Vnuk’s was a disappointment after playing a sold out show at the Hideout the night before he certainly didn’t let on.
Playing with a band behind him, he ventured a little further into his back catalog than I have seen him go previously. While his always engaging stories weren’t quite as numerous as they had been in the basement, they were still just as entertaining. Tonight’s best story preceded “Muddy Jesus,” perhaps the best known of his early hits. Somewhere in the rural area of a southern state, a police officer happened upon Ian and a friend parked in the middle of nowhere engaging in some illegal activity. They thought they were busted for sure, but once the officer looked at his driver’s license and realized that the man in the car was the artist responsible for said song, he was more than happy to let them go on their way. The song comes from his 1995 record Modernday Folklore, back in the days where he was better known as a Stevie Ray Vaughn type blues guitar prodigy than as the emotive singer-songwriter he is today. In fact, I’m not the first person to think that there must be two Ian Moores having seen him before and after.
In addition to a few other early songs, like the powerful “Satisfied” (which I believe was the “blues song that made him famous” according to a fan in a story I’ve heard him tell before), he also played several of the songs off last year’s To Be Loved. Billed somewhat unfairly as a “return to form,” the record definitely rocks harder than his previous release, the beautiful, introspective Luminaria. Smart rockers like “House on the Hill” and set opener “Literary Type” make a case for it as a power pop record for the NPR set, while “April” from Luminaria proves he’s never afraid to hit the high notes. With no opener, there was plenty of time to dismiss the rhythm section and do a couple songs as a duo. I truly enjoyed the full band sound, but just he and Kullen will always be my favorite way to see them.
With a catalog as extensive and diverse as his, he doesn’t really need to do many covers, but when he does they are perfectly chosen. I’ve seen him do Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers” on several occasions, and tonight’s cover of Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos” was equally stunning. Even better, he dedicated it to me and my basement, drawing several “Did Ian Moore really play your basement?” looks from the crowd. I was a little disappointed that his booking agent hadn’t contacted me when booking the tour, but as it turns out, so was Ian. “I really want to play your place again, but we couldn’t really do it with the band,” he told me after the show. “We’re just too loud,” he responded when I asked why not. I reassured him that we’d had plenty of loud bands in the basement and it wouldn’t be a problem. “Oh, OK, next time then,” he said looking visibly cheered. Solo, duo or band, I can’t imagine anyone I would rather have back.