Sunday, December 3, 2017

Deer Tick Shows Two Sides at Brooklyn Steel

"This show has two sets: one quiet, one loud. The drunker you get, the louder we get," Ian O'Neil informed the Saturday night audience at Brooklyn Steel. I first got word of Deer Tick's "Twice is Nice" tour in June by way of an email containing a pre-sale code. The band would be playing an acoustic set and an electric set, representative of their upcoming albums Vol. 1 & 2, and a stand-up comedian would be opening the show. I bought my tickets immediately, and anxiously waited for December like a kid who's been good all year. After a long walk from the subway and an even longer security process, I made my way into the showroom at Brooklyn Steel to find the comic already onstage. It turned out to be my pal, Nore Davis, who once headlined my comedy show, Free Rad Jokez. Wearing a red bandana, Nore made the packed house laugh at his desire to open a 24-hour farmers market to compete with fast-food chains. Not even ten minutes past nine, he welcomed Deer Tick to the stage.

While normally content to wear white t-shirts or nothing at all, the band dressed up for the occasion, looking quite dapper in various combinations of crimson and black. They greeted the crowd and began with "Sea of Clouds," the first track on Vol. 1. They followed promptly with the tango intro to "Card House," the record's second song and coincidentally my personal favorite of the two-disc collection. "Do an oldie," McCauley declared, leading the band on "Art Isn't Real (City of Sin)" and alleviating worries that a) the albums would be performed in sequence, and b) they'd only be playing songs from Vol. 1 & 2. Highlights included "Me & My Man," which made way more sense to me after Dennis Ryan revealed it to be about his dog, and "The Dream's in the Ditch," my most-played Tick tune. "Mange" capped off the unplugged portion with an energetic finish, McCauley and O'Neil embellishing their guitar strums into a choreographed routine à
 la ZZ Top.

During the break, stagehands traded the red backdrop for a yellow one, keeping with the ketchup and mustard theme of the albums' artwork. Nore emerged once again to introduce the band, this time donning a yellow bandana. I suddenly understood why he'd worn a red one earlier, and sure enough, Deer Tick also returned with an ochre wardrobe change. Taking a cue from the first set's structure, the boys led with the first two songs from Vol. 2. They broke the order with "Clownin Around," Dennis Ryan's ode to John Wayne... Gacy. Ian O'Neil informed the crowd that the show had sold out during set break, and the band appeared to relish the news, kicking off "The Bump" with an extended jam. While I'd enjoyed the first set, it was apparent that they were having more fun in the second frame, even dipping into Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" mid-"These Old Shoes." Ryan sang "Wants/Needs" from behind his Plexiglas drum fortress before careening into Chris Montez's "Let's Dance," McCauley strapping on a harmonica for the ride. Covers of the Pogues' "White City" and Tommy Keene's "Places That Are Gone" injected some '80s guitar tones into the mix. Following the latter, the band departed stage left, with the exception of John, who moved to the keyboard. Although he admitted he was a bit under the weather, he persevered on a spirited take of "Christ Jesus," his bandmates rejoining him after the second refrain. Deer Tick wrapped up the set with a trio from Vol. 2, "It's a Whale," "Look How Clean I Am," and "Mr. Nothing Gets Worse," and left the stage.

Would they come back and play more songs? Would they be acoustic or electric? A minute later, John returned, took a seat at the keyboard, and said, "Alright, we'll do a few more." While the lyrics to "Goodbye, Dear Friend" made it a good encore choice, it's a bit of a downer to end on, so the band fired off a joyful "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding?" with John windmilling through the closing power chords. They kept the party going with a pair of their most beloved tunes, "Baltimore Blues No. 1" and "Ashamed," the crowd offering ample vocal assistance. McCauley wanted to ensure that his appreciation for the fans didn't go unnoticed, remarking, "Some people think this is bullshit, but it isn't," as he segued into Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." After the ketchup and mustard of the first two sets, the encore was gravy.


SET ONE, ACOUSTIC (56 minutes) -
Sea of Clouds / Card House / Art Isn't Real (City of Sin) / Houston, TX / Smith Hill / Hope is Big / Me & My Man / Cocktail / The Dream's in the Ditch / Only Love / Mange

SET TWO, ELECTRIC (1 hour, 11 minutes) -
Don't Hurt / Jumpstarting / Clownin Around / The Bump > Easy / Tiny Fortunes / White City / These Old Shoes > Superstition (tease) > These Old Shoes / Twenty Miles / Wants/Needs > Let's Dance / Make Believe / Miss K. / Dirty Dishes / Places That Are Gone / Christ Jesus / It's a Whale / Look How Clean I Am / Mr. Nothing Gets Worse

ENCORE (19 minutes) -
Goodbye, Dear Friend / (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding? / Baltimore Blues No. 1 / Ashamed > You Are So Beautiful