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ConcertsNEARfest 2004: Mike Keneally Band

Posted on Thursday, July 22 2004 @ 00:01:18 CDT by Jedd Beaudoin
Concert Reviews Dogs have four legs: Mike Keneally Band steps ahead of the pack at NEARfest

Someone in the audience shouted, "You're the man, Mike!" and for more than an hour the San Diego-based guitarist demonstrated time and again that exact point. And he didn't even have to try.

When Mike Keneally Band launched into the first notes of "L'il" on Saturday, July 10th, the NEARfest crowd breathed a collective and momentarily sigh of relief—collective because to that point the acts had been hit and (largely) miss, temporary because for the next hour plus Keneally and band took listeners on a demanding and inspired journey with stops for laughter, awe-inspired fright and wafts of pure and unbridled happiness.
Drawing heavily from the well of recent material (largely from 1999's Nonktertompf onward), the quartet--featuring Rick Musallam on guitar, Bryan Beller on bass and Nick D'Virgilio on drums—landed firmly on its feet, with Musallam and Keneally weaving amazing but never overwrought guitar lines, D'Virgilio sounding positively fresher than ever before and Beller delivering his parts with an impossibly relaxed exactitude.
Witness "Ragged Ass," culled from 2000's Dancing. While the album version captures the tune well enough, the live reading gave evidence that Keneally and friends had uncovered more nuances within the song, its urgent immediacy and emotional power connecting more completely. Other highlights included an excellent reading of "Career Politicians" from long out-of-print album from The Mistakes outing (a thus far one-off with Henry Kaiser, Andy West and Prairie Prince), a transcendental performance of "2001" from Wooden Smoke and fine translation of the strange and lovely "Gravity Grab" (from the just-released Dog).
Other highlights included a fantastic reading of Kevin Gilbert's "Shadow Self," followed by a somber, poignant take on the Keneally-penned Gilbert tribute "I Was Not Ready For You," a well-done performance of the expansive "This Tastes Like A Hotel" (from Dog) and "Splane" (which transformed folks in at least three rows of the auditorium to shiny happy rock 'n' roll bobbleheads, this reporter included; described by longtime Keneally enthusiast Doug Boucher as the best Dave Matthews song that Dave Matthews didn't write—or something like that—"Splane" in short, rocks and deserves to be splattered all over the radio somewhere in the world). The final highlight of the evening came in the form of a second tune from the Mistakes, "Aye-Aye Monster," a tune that surely not everyone in the audience knew by heart. And yet, they reacted to it like they knew intimately, like it was the best song in their lives at the moment.
And it probably was. And that's a good sign. Another good sign was that virtually no one left their seats during MKB's set—a rarity at an event where fickle tastes did abound—and many who did leave between the proper set's close and the encore, scrambled to get back to their seats, afraid that they might miss something.
What Keneally and company demonstrated that night is that the current outfit lives largest and breathes most clearly in the live arena, a place this outfit needs to be seen more often.
Set List (courtesy of Dave "Da9ve" Stovall)
Career Politicians
Ragged Ass
Gravity Grab
Prog Snippets: Mood For A Day (Yes) and Experience (Gentle Giant)
Shadow Self
I Was Not Ready For You
Choosing to Drown
This Tastes Like a Hotel
Aye Aye Monster

Jedd Beaudoin

Read Jedd Beaudoin's Interview With Mike Keneally!

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