The last time Peter Case played at the house it was a good show, but it seemed to be more storytelling than playing. This time the opposite was true, and I think it was a better show for it. It could just be that he started the show with two of my favorite songs from one of his first solo records, The Man with Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar. “Put Down the Gun” and “Entella Hotel” are both excellent examples of his storytelling capabilities in song. The first contains the immortal theater wisdom “the gun in the first act always goes off in the third” and follows it with “there’ll be no third act at all if someone’s killed tonight” as he tries to talk the weapon out of someone’s hand. The latter is Bob Dylan-esque in its detail, a sort of “Simple Twist of Fate” set in a cabaret (or is it a bordello?).
If he seemed a little rattled tonight it probably had to do with the fact that he was having trouble hearing. He’d just gotten back from a European tour and there was a show at a club called Volume that lived up to its name. He was having trouble with one ear even weeks after the show, though I never would have guessed it from his singing or playing. It sounded terrific in the basement, despite an over enthusiastic show attendee who thought he knew the words and decided to sing along. And also that oh, perhaps he and Peter should get to be friends, and he initiated that by striking up a conversation during the show. The first time sound guy did a great job, despite the fact that nothing was connected when he got there.
I didn’t know many of the rest of the songs, but they were the kind that you feel like you know. He asked for requests and took a few of them, including Bill’s for “Old Blue Car,” a very catchy and apparently old song. Perhaps the best testament to how good the show was is that opener Robby Schiller was impressed. A terrific song writer, Schiller doesn’t like much other music, but he loved Peter Case. Since he didn’t have a CD of his own to trade, he traded a saw from the back of his van for a copy of Beeline. Hopefully Schiller will get that solo CD done soon, if only so he doesn’t give away the rest of his tools. People who only know him from his band the Blueheels are missing out, the solo stuff is more intriguing. His voice has changed over the years, from a distinctive nasal twang to an impressively powerful croon. He confessed his goal was to become a profanity spewing Cat Stevens. I’ve been saying that about his voice recently, and well, a song like Schiller’s “Dumb F*cks” contains a lot more cursing than Stevens’ “Moon Shadow.”
Despite asking after only ten minutes if he was almost done, he played nearly fifty minutes. He ended his terrific set, which also included the Harry Nilsson-flavored “I Don’t Mind At All” and the hilarious “Jay Cutler,” with a well-intentioned, but not particularly successful, sing-along of “Edelweiss,” stage whispering “and the Van Trapp family sneaks out the back…” at the end. I try to rotate openers, but it hadn’t been that long since Robby had played in the basement. I can’t help it, he isn’t for everyone, but I am definitely a fan.