Lucero, Robert Ellis & The Boys and Somebody's Darling
February 24, 2011
Better than: recent shows at Club Dada, at least sonically.
"It's like karaoke night in here, ain't it?" he marveled aloud into his microphone between lyrics.
And, well, it kind of was. A crowded house at Club Dada -- among the biggest crowds yet hosted at the recently re-opened Deep Ellum space -- was sprawled out before him, with fists and beers thrust skyward, and shouted-along lyrics lingering in the air. The Memphis-based cow-punk outfit had sold the venue out. Seemed Nichols had just noticed as much.
"Thank you all so much for being here," he said. "Thanks you so much for the support. And thank you for the shots."
The crowd laughed. Fitting.
As Lucero shows tend to be, this one was a boozy affair, as the band, with its muscly emotional sound, which equal parts pays homage to its alt-country forefathers and Bruce Springsteen's working-man's-hero appeal, offered up a set culled from its now-quite-lengthy catalog.
And yet the five-piece (two guitars, a bass, keys and drums), old cut or new, remained on point. They, actually, seemed quite sober -- indeed, perhaps showcasing a new mature side of themselves.
The crowd, though? Not so much. Indeed, Dallas audiences have long welcomed this outfit, and long been accustomed to the hard-drinking atmosphere -- at least in ideology -- in which the band plies its craft. This night, as such, felt like a vintage Lucero performance -- one abetted by the fact that the band performed a far less sloppy set than with which its crowd's become accustomed.
It helped that the stage was set well for the headliners' show.
Earlier in the night, Dallas' own Somebody's Darling seemed to especially elicit a strong response from the crowd, with their own brand of alt-country very much holding over the audiences awaiting Lucero's bow. Their performance was crisp and energetic -- a clear sign early on in this night that Dada has finally seemed to tackled the sound issues that have plagued the earlier-hosted performances of the venue's most recent incarnation. Frontwoman Amber Farris, as she's long proven herself capable of, offered up a visceral vocal display and guitarist David Ponder, unfortunate facial expressions aside, showcased well his phenomenal chops.
Immediately thereafter, Houston's Robert Ellis & The Boys, a more traditional and less rowdy outfit recently signed to New West Records, pleased with the least rocking, but perhaps most refreshing and encouraging, performance of the night. Sounding like the lovechild of local favorites Eleven Hundred Springs and The Kings Bucks, the band set the table well for the headliners.
But this was, without a doubt, a Lucero crowd. And, by the end of the night, when the band was beckoned back on stage for an encore, even after a 100-minute performance, Nichols acknowledged as much once more to his fans.
"Don't you guys have work tomorrow?" have half-jokingly asked before his band started its encore. "Yeah, of course you do. Get on with it, right?"
So, Lucero did. And, for a brief moment, after Nichols has just shocked his crowd back into reality, they willingly gave in once more to the band's charms. And it was tough not to.
Personal Bias: I've always enjoyed Lucero's music, and I've always very much enjoyed their live show and the atmosphere that comes with it. But, even as someone who'd call himself a fan, I'm half the fan that most of those who show up to Lucero shows turn out to be. Those folks are nuts.
By The Way: By adding a curtain behind the stage and hanging foam sound buffers from the ceiling, Dada's greatly improved its sound -- a vast improvement over the reverb-heavy offerings the venue has so-far offered as it's tried to gain its footing since opening just after New Year's. This altering was a big step in the right direction -- but the room could still stand to be sound-proofed further, as two entire walls of brick remain bare in the space, allowing the sound to ricochet back and forth, and hampering the sound quality for those standing right in the middle of the space.
Random Note: The last ticket was sold at the door at 9:30 p.m. At that point, the room had reached its 400-person capacity, not including the people who'd pre-purchased tickets and hadn't yet arrived.