Filed under: Scene Around Town | Tags: Mike Doughty, Scene Around Town, show review, Westcott Theater
PREVIEW: VISIT Mike Doughty’s website
Just like his songs, Mike Doughty keeps his shows straightforward, but entertaining; witty, but not caustic; and short, but sweet. In less than an hour and a half, Doughty packed 20 songs into his Thursday night set at the Westcott Theater, including crowd favorites “27 Jennifers,” “Circles,” and “Madeline and Nine.”
The intimate crowd of about 60 featured a casual mix of fans: the moderate hipsters represented with their standard uniform of plaid, knit hats and skinny jeans, while a sprinkling of slightly older folks were present, and clearly reliving their Soul Coughing days.
Opening for Doughty was the self-described “totally unknown but prolific” Porter Block, a Brooklyn-based rock band that scaled their sound down to just two acoustic guitars, and later a ukulele. Lead singer Peter Block and accompanying guitarist Garrett Alacorn welcomed the audience with an assertive, “We’re gonna warm you up.”
Unfortunately, their performance never rose above lukewarm. Their slow to mid-tempo acoustic ballads featured nothing exciting, save for the very last song which featured a ukulele. Admittedly, Porter Block’s rendition of the popular 1924 classic “I’ll See You in My Dreams” was enjoyable, and featured the only orchestrated audience participation of the night as Block asked the crowd to clap along.
Mike Doughty took the stage in a calm frenzy: a brisk pace led him to his stool, and a quick “Hello beautiful friends!” led him into his first song. Opening the show was “Shunned and Falsified,” a track from his 2004 album Skittish/Rockity Roll. Syncopated rhythms and Doughty’s signature throaty baritone punctuated the song’s dark tone.
Accompanying the former Soul Coughing singer for the night was cellist and electric guitarist Andrew Livingston. Livingston’s unconventional picking technique added depth of sound. Occasional finger tapping on the body of his cello supplied the only percussive noises of the night.
Songs also played from Skittish/Rockity Roll were “Rising Sign,” and “Thank You, Lord, For Sending Me the F Train.”
A unique twist to Doughty shows is the addition of The Question Jar: a glass jar set up in the front of the stage where people are encouraged to put in any question written on given pieces of paper for Doughty and company to answer. Doughty is stark but hysterical with his responses. One question read, “Will you move up here to Syracuse?” And without any hesitation, Doughty responded “Uh. No. Next question.” But just when the questions became too mundane, the music started again.
The rest of the set was loaded with songs from his most recent album, Sad Man Happy Man, as well as a few Soul Coughing classics. The first taste of his third album was “Nectarine (Part 2),” a love song with a slight country tinge. Most of the songs from Sad Man Happy Man, including “(I Keep On) Rising Up,” “(You Should Be) Doubly (Gratified),” “(I Want to) Burn You (Down)” and “Pleasure on Credit” were bluesy and broad sounding, with themes revolving around the trials and joys of life and love.
With his show at the Westcott, Mike Doughty proved he still has reach beyond the 90’s alternative scene and doesn’t need a back up band to succeed. An acoustic guitar and empty jar are all Doughty needs to put on a satisfying show.
— Oliva Marie St Denis