Chris Mills had played to a capacity crowd with his band the Distant Stars back in January, so it was difficult to figure out why ticket sales had been so sluggish for his first official “Living Room” show at the house. I’ve worked with Undertow many times on these shows, which are usually played unplugged in the living rooms of people who don’t usually have shows, and they range from immediate sell outs (like Califone and Tim Kasher) to only a handful of fans. It was looking somewhat bleak, only a couple tickets had been sold as of a few days before, but there were folks who were swayed last minute, perhaps by my sad plea in an e-mail the day before, and it ended up being an acceptable, and very enthusiastic, crowd. Mills and I both chided each other for being worried.
Even though it was only the second night of the tour, he decided to save his voice and opted to use the PA, you know, since it was there. And luckily my usual sound guy was already planning on coming. In the spirit of the living room show, he gave us more background on the songs than he usually would. “I just turned forty last week,” he started off, “so I’ll be talking a lot about regret and looking back in sadness.” He introduced “Love in the Time of Cholera” as a song based on/inspired by a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, “he died recently,” he added, “he was quite old, not unlike myself, now.” “And like the characters in the book who are old people, who waited a long time to get together and have sex with each other.” Then, thinking about what he had said, “so, basically it’s a disgusting novel.” He also gave people the chance to make requests, but “do it early, because later I’ll be tired.” He had re-learned a lot of old songs as requests from the hosts, so the set list contained a sampling from his entire catalog, including some songs that he hadn’t played in a decade. “But really, if there is something you want to hear,” he paused dramatically, “that I have written on this list and have practiced, I’d be happy to play it.”
I was hoping that he would already know to play “Dry Eye,” still my favorite song of his, so I requested “Lips Are Like Poison,” a song I hadn’t heard him play in ages, perhaps since I requested it at a show at Maxwell’s many, many years ago. After introducing it as my choice, he added that it had almost cost him a record contract. I think it’s an amazing, if decidedly dark, song, but I can see where the line “Even if you wanted me I’m too drunk to fuck” might have rubbed some people the wrong way. He did know to play “Dry Eye” and about halfway through the show he asked if it was a good time to play it. I had to ask if that was a rhetorical question, now is always a good time to play it. “This is Kiki’s favorite song… ever,” he claimed before adding, “not really, but she makes me feel that way and I appreciate it.” Ha, little does he know, it just might be might be my favorite song ever. If it isn’t that, it’s probably the title track to “The Silver Line” which may just be a perfect pop song. Like many of the songs, the solo acoustic version was equally as awesome as the band version I know by heart.
Like every Mills show I spent the whole night smiling. It’s so amazing to have my favorite songwriter play in my basement, not to mention for the second time this year. I’m a lucky girl.