Dan Bern/Brett Newski; March 10, 2011; High Noon Saloon
I’m not quite sure why I don’t have any Dan Bern records. He’s one of many artists, all of whom I like, who have been labeled “the new Dylan,” though in most cases that label has been more burden than benefit. The biggest reason is likely because this is only the second time I’ve seen him in a decade. I intend to remedy that after seeing him this time. Though now I don’t know where to start.
He joked a lot about the early show, the “on the way home from work show,” as he kept calling it. He had told his booking guy he didn’t want to do an early show, but as people kept filling in he changed his mind. Deciding by the end of the night that the “on the way home from work show” was all he was going to do from now on. They were a rapt audience too. It’s unusual to see a happy hour crowd be that quiet. Even though I didn’t know any of the songs I was certainly enchanted. In fact it was only the crowd around the merch table that kept me from buying every CD he had that night. It was a combination of great songwriting and good storytelling. He was well accompanied by just a single musician who played what looked like a long-necked fiddle. I asked after the show what it was called, but promptly forgot. It was pretty cool though.
I say that I didn’t know any of the songs, but that isn’t quite true. When he came back for a quick encore (the only problem with the early show is that there is a late show), he listened to a request from the audience. He repeated back a song title I didn’t quite catch, and followed it with “really? I usually open with that one, it’s kind of a downer for the last song.” A few lines in I realized I knew it, but wasn’t quite sure how. Then I remembered I had seen Josh Harty and Brooks West do it years before. It was one I’d videoed, and I watched it many times. It was that good of a song, and their performance of it was impressive. I can vouch for the original being even better.
Opener Brett Newski seemed an odd choice, his mainstream anthems didn’t pair well with Bern’s individualistic voice. But even so it was a great show. I hope it is less than ten years till I see him again.