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Concert review: Deer Tick at The Urban Lounge

by on May 11, 2012

Going to see a band for the first time and expecting transcendence isn’t really fair, but it’s tough to temper expectations when you’ve read a slew of rave reviews and heard great word-of-mouth about a group.

In the case of Deer Tick, the Rhode Island-based roots-rockers, I’d heard great things about their live shows for years, but kept missing their stops in Salt Lake City. Thursday night at The Urban Lounge, I finally had the chance to see the band led by singer/songwriter John McCauley for the first time.

Suffice to say, Deer Tick lived up to the hype, delivering a rough-and-tumble set full of sounds inspired by artists who must be inspirations to the band, from the sexy blues-rock of the Rolling Stones to the drunken singalongs of The Pogues, the insistent pop-rock of Cheap Trick to the delicate (0n occasion) folk-rock of Neil Young. It was an impressive display by McCauley and his bandmates.

The first surprise of the night came with the very  first song, a faithful cover of Nirvana’s “Serve the Servants.” That the Rhode Island band would choose to cover a band noted for its hometown clear across the country from Deer Tick’s Providence was not shocking–both Deer Tick and Nirvana are pop-savvy “alt-rockers”–but to open a show with a tune by the Seattle icons was ballsy, to say the least. Toward the end of the set, Deer Tick would delve into Kurt Cobain’s catalog again for an abbreviated take on “Something in the Way” that wasn’t quite as thrilling as the somewhat obscure opener from In Utero.

In between those tunes came nearly 90 minutes of sometimes-thrilling, consistently winning rock & roll, with a heavy dose of Deer Tick’s 2011 release Divine Providence filling much of the set. Songs like “Funny Word,” “Main Street” and the utterly apt “Let’s All Go the the Bar” from that album all killed. Other highlights included “Easy” (not the Commodores tune, but a song from the band’s Born on Flag Day album), and “Miss K.”

Somewhat remarkably, the most thrilling moment came via another cover song. Twenty songs into the show, and right at 1 a.m. (Utahns know that is, sadly, last call at the bar), Deer Tick kicked into a raucous take on the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party).” The homage to MCA’s long-time group turned a well-lubricated Urban Lounge audience completely apeshit–pumping their collective fists, singing along and reveling in the joy of a worthy rock band in its prime paying homage to an unforgettable pioneer recently lost.

The Beasties’ cover was a communal charge of energy that can only happen at a live music performance, and Deer Tick was the perfect conduit for the experience. The fact their own music can inspire a similarly fervent response is a  great sign Deer Tick is something special. They are definitely a band I won’t ever miss again when I have the chance to see them.

From → Concert reviews

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