Live Last Night: Lambchop

dancerKurt Wagner is not a sock puppet.

Ever listened to someone talk and heard the saliva in their mouth? Kurt Wagner has made a career out of that sound with Lambchop, an ever-rotating outfit that has been purveying a startlingly original brand of something you might call Mumble Rock for more than two decades. The band was consistently stirring -- and occasionally brilliant -- on the Black Cat Backstage last night, chewing on the fabric of American music in a deeply idiosyncratic and enjoyable style.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

The Chop Wagner brought to D.C. was modest compared to previous lineups (which have swelled to 20 players), but judging from the dynamic range they displayed, it may be the ideal setup to express his soul-rock-jazz-poetry hybrid. The key was guitarist William Tyler, who played with a sympathy, tastefulness and sting worthy of Steve Cropper.

Drawn almost exclusively from 2008's "OH (Ohio)," one of their best efforts in years, the set crackled from the outset, thanks in part to a enthusiastic crowd. "National Talk Like A Pirate Day" swirled like vintage Meat Puppets pysch-country, "Slipped Loosed and Dissolved" bobbed with lyrical grace and "Popeye" boasted one of many exquisitely expressive Wagner vocals. The bespectacled Lambchop leader sang beautifully all night, especially on an ebbing, flowing version of Dylan's "You're A Big Girl Now" and "Give It," a steamrolling re-creation of a track Wagner did with British electro trio X-Press 2.

The real indicator of the set's success might have been that Lambchop earned an actual encore (one that comes after the thing where the band goes and stands offstage for a few minutes while people clap then plays two songs they were gonna play anyway) and returned ("This is unprecedented" Wagner mumbled) to play a rousing version of an older song whose title isn't fit for this, um, family blog. Surprising and invigorating, Lambchop continues to walk defiantly down a path few others are brave -- or talented -- enough to take.

-- PATRICK FOSTER

By J. Freedom du Lac |  February 12, 2009; 12:02 PM ET Live Last Night
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