Last Night: Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger at Dan's Silverleaf

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Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
Dan's Silverleaf, Denton
January 18, 2010

Better Than: Dhani Harrison's band with Ben Harper.

Here's the thing: It may be in bad taste, but when there's the son of a Beatle in the room, it's difficult to get past that. Especially when we're not just talking any Beatle, but perhaps the most beloved of them all -- the loss of whom we all still seem to feel collectively.

But as much as Sean Lennon's name should be credited for selling out Denton's venerable Dan's Silverleaf on Tuesday night, his music is what hushed the crowd, elevating the evening beyond some macabre spectacle of "Look, there he is!" to "Wow, this kid's really good!"

And that comment was heard more than once throughout the crowd after his band took the stage.

That band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, made up of Lennon, girlfriend/model Charlotte Kemp Muhl, and trumpeter C.J. Camerieri (whom they lovingly called "Calamari"), took the stage right around 9:30 p.m. to a sold-out club. Lennon, dressed like some kind of sergeant (pepper?) in a serviceman's cap and coat, began strumming his guitar to the sitar music coming over the speakers, opening with an Eastern-tinged jam that eventually become a tuned called "India," appropriately enough.

GOASST then went on to play every song off of their debut album, Acoustic Sessions, and a chamber-pop reworking of Dylan's "Girl of the North Country," increasingly winning over the packed room as the evening progressed.

While the attention was obviously directed at Lennon, it soon became clear he wasn't the sole talent in the group. Camerieri used his trumpet as much as an auxiliary instrument as he did a lead, using effects and pedals to doctor his sound and create various textures to fill out the sometimes dark and other times whimsical songs.

Meanwhile, Muhl was the dark horse on stage, playing bass, recorder, accordion and glockenspiel throughout the evening in addition to singing harmonies on every song, proving that her presence in the group is more than simple nepotism.

Still, Lennon was perfectly comfortable in the frontman role. In between almost every song, he offered charming and often hilarious banter, revealing someone far more approachable than one might expect. In fact, after the set, he made himself available at the merch table and greeted the majority of the crowd who stood in the long line.

The cold fact that the majority in attendance were there because of his name mattered little to him -- it's just part of the burden he lives with every day.

Bottom line: It was an engaging set, and the GOASST project is solid, if not necessarily remarkable. But one can't help but wonder what the turnout would have been for the band if those names didn't come with it.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I hate that I missed opening act Laura Gibson, who played shortly after eight o'clock. The version of Dan's website I doubly checked said the evening started at nine, but I arrived just in time to see Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, hence the lack of information concerning her set. However, judging by the continual crowd around her merch table, it must have been great.

Random Note: I've seen a lot of shows at Dan's, and a lot of different types of shows and touring acts, but I've never seen it that full.

By The Way: While there were a lot of regulars to local music (and Dan's in particular) in attendance last night, there were many others who attended just to see a glimpse of celebrity. If all of those folks would go see a local show some time in the next month, the world would be a better place.

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