Sunday, October 13, 2019

David J - Live 2019.10.11 Chausseestraße 131, Berlin, Germany

Artist: David J
Venue: Chausseestraße 131
Location: Berlin, Germany
Date: 11 October 2019

01. Not Long for This World [a capella]
02. The Auteur
03. Clandestine Valentine
04. Blue Eyes in the Green Room
05. Copper Level 7
06. Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh
07. Feel Like Robert Johnson at the Three Forks Saloon
08. Missive to an Angel from the Halls of Infamy and Allure
09. Shelf Life [originally performed by Love & Rockets]

10. The Dog-End of a Day Gone By [originally performed by Love & Rockets]

This was a weird show for many reasons. First of all, David was originally scheduled to perform the following day at Bi Nuu (where I saw ChameleonsVox two years ago), but that show was canceled for unspecified reasons. However, I subsequently caught wind of this show at a much smaller venue. There was no mention of tickets or a price anywhere, just a claim that David would play at 10pm followed by a bunch of DJs. I arrived early and the place was fairly empty, without anyone at the door. David arrived, did a soundcheck, and then just hung out. 10pm came and went. Finally, at least 45 minutes late, the show began.

The venue was small and lacking any sort of stage. There was a DJ booth in the back but not much else. The space was dark and sickly smoky. Getting the sound in a decent state was clearly a challenge, although in the end it was fine. The crowd was sparse and an odd lot. Most seemed like dedicated fans, and yet several kept talking or coming and going during the set.

David didn't seem to mind, though, and he started his set with a dramatic flair by singing "Not Long for This World" from the 2011 album of the same name a capella. The rest of his set was just him and his acoustic guitar in the typical folky singer-songwriter style. I was hoping for some accompaniment, but David's songwriting and performing skills are strong enough such that even when unadorned, his songs are clever and varied enough to keep things interesting.

Half of the set came from David's new album, Missive to an Angel from the Halls of Infamy and Allure, officially released on October 18, but already available at his concerts. A highlight of the album (and the concert) is a new version of "The Auteur", originally a b-side of "The Guitar Man" from 2002. Where the original is country-inflected and pleasantly lilting, the new version is sinister and foreboding. The subtlety of the original may have been easily overlooked at the time, but this version, particularly with Rose McGowan's vocals, is an even clearer damnation of predatory Hollywood figures.

In plenty of other regards as well, the new album hearkens back to Estranged, David's superb album from 2003 (one of the first albums I ever reviewed on this blog!). In much the same way, Missives is rather accessible and yet full of surprises. It's folk-oriented, but features rich, lush instrumentation. It makes for a beautiful listen even if you don't focus in on it. The only downside is that many of the lyrics continue David's tiring trend of treating women only as sexual muses. Many of the songs are nonetheless clever, humorous, or earnestly thoughtful, like "(I Don't Want to Destroy) Our Beautiful Thing", "Pre-Existing Condition", and "(I Walked Away from) The Girl in Yellow". But others are less subtle and lack that level of depth. Unfortunately, those are the ones that David focused on at the concert. I wish I could've instead seen the meticulously crafted soundscape of "Mosaic" live, but recreating that level of complexity was probably infeasible.

The rest of the show came from across David's substantial back catalog, including his classic "Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh" (always a pleasure) and two Love & Rockets songs: "Shelf Life", a personal favorite from the latter-day Sweet F.A. (1996), and "The Dog-End of a Day Gone By", originally a pummeling rocker from Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven (1985). Naturally, these were highlights, even if neither was perfectly performed.

The context of this concert makes judgment difficult. The circumstances were obviously far from ideal, and if I take all of that into account, it was disappointing in comparison to what I was hoping to see at the originally scheduled show at Bi Nuu. However, I appreciate that David adhered to the notion that the show must go on, and although it was a short set, he put on a good show for those 45 minutes. He clearly wanted to make the most of it, regardless of the limited financial gain to be had from such an intimate show. With a strong new album in tow, and considering past experience, my bet is that the rest of his tour will be even better.

The performance itself: B-
The entire experience: D
The album (Missive to an Angel from the Halls of Infamy and Allure): B+

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