Okkervil River @ Webster Hall

08Oct08

This is what I learned last night at Webster Hall: Okkervil River is a boy band. I don’t mean that they have choreographed dance routines and teeny-bopper lyrics, but what I mean is, they have a significant male following. It was definitely noticeable last night. The first tip-off came when my friend, Elayna, and I realized we couldn’t see a thing on stage. Why are all these tall guys in front of us? Wait, why is the whole place filled with tall guys? Usually there are couples and a mix of men and women, and it’s nothing of note. But last night, guys came out in pairs, in groups, and in suits straight from work. I don’t know if they wish they had Will Sheff’s voice, or maybe just his hair, but they sang along enthusiastically and even moved a bit. Anyway, you get the point, but it’s something that I don’t notice often. I think the last time I witnessed a somewhat similar situation was at a concert featuring The Hold Steady.

A bespectacled Will Sheff wore a suit and tie, so he sort of looked like a cool professor who was grading papers when someone yelled to him: ‘Hey, buddy, they need you onstage, grab that guitar…” And there he was. He performed with a great deal of energy and impassioned vocals, but he didn’t have to do much to impress me. I’m a sucker for formalwear, so he had me from the get go.

It was a showy show, complete with an accompanying lighting arrangement. I rarely come across this at other venues comparable to Webster Hall, so it was a bit unexpected and made me feel like I was at Madison Square Garden waiting for Madonna to be lowered from the rafters. Well, maybe it wasn’t that flashy, but it was more than I’m used to. There were lights frenetically flashing, red, white, and fog machines and stars. At one point there were so many lights flashing during the musical buildup, I though they were preparing to blast something into space. The band brought trumpets, maracas, and a banjo for the livelier parts of the show. The other half was full of ballads, some performed solely by Sheff. The band played for almost two hours, leaving popular tracks like “Our Life is Not a Movie” and “Unless It Kicks” (a song I was slightly addicted to for some time) until the end of the set.

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