Review by Bill Fountain
Cracker played Deep Ellum Live last night in Dallas to a very small but loyal crowd of fans. The opening band was a group from Virginia called "Everything." I have nothing against the opening band, in fact, their first few numbers were really inspired. The lead singer had sort of a Glenn Tillbrook early Squeeze quality to his voice, and the keyboardist slash trombone man made the numbers jump.
It wasn't until the band got around to playing their "hit" song, something about "hooch," that I really started to dislike them. And maybe it wasn't them so much as the double XX large, tiny headed frat boys (that make Deep Ellum the living poser hell that it is) that were belching the chorus to this song like zombies getting instructions from the mothership. I sighed, deeply disturbed, knowing full well that at some point later in the evening, when Cracker obligatorily started their MTV song "Low," I would be in for more of this ugliness. I said a quick prayer that these brut smelling primitives would make a beer run during "Big Dipper," so I wouldn't have to hear their grunts and groans.
With little or no promotion, the barn at Deep Ellum Live was a little under half full when Lowery, looking out at the smattering of fans like a little boy getting socks for a present on Christmas morning, began the show. They opened the show with "Been Around The World," a great song from their latest release "Gentlemen's Blues." Hickman's guitar work is beautiful to behold up close and personal. With all of the clever lyrics, inventive structures and interesting melodies, it is often easy to overlook what a fantastic guitarist Cracker employees in Johnny Hickman.
The show bounced all over Cracker's discography, pulling tracks from the sadly overlooked but never to be equaled "Golden Age" album, all the way back to the days when Lowery worked with Camper Van Beethoven. They played all my favorites, including "Big Dipper" and thankfully, the frat boys were quiet. They were probably mesmerized by the extremely drunk, young women who kept exposing themselves to the band. Not every one had a good time though, mid way through "Euro Trash Girl," a woman close by me passed out and had to be carried out.
Meanwhile, you could just see it in David Lowery's eyes: "Finish this thing. Try to have a good time. Never play Dallas again. Never play Dallas again."
The band did not take a break. They started up at 10:15 and stopped around midnight with non-stop song. But as the evening wore on, the soundman must have been hitting the bottom of the bottle. By the time, we got to the encore, one of my favorite Cracker songs, "I Ride my Bike," the sound was so distorted and smashed together, it was difficult to tell what was going on. At one point, the entire sound on the right side of the stage went silent.
In all, Cracker is a great live show. The band did a fantastic job in a not so great venue and that says much about their character. The fact that Hickman went the extra mile on the solos, not caring whether he was playing to a sold out house or a tiny barn populated by a handful of fans, really made the show work.
But you should have seen the double XX boys with tiny heads bobbing up and down, squirming like rabid monkeys getting shot, screaming mock agreement to the lyrics of "Low."
Oh, the horror. . . .
Bill Fountain 10/15/98
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