February 09, 2004
Dave Pirner’s Sunday night show at d.b.a. will hopefully be his last. Not because it sucked—he and his band were enjoyable. The former Soul Asylum lead singer and guitarist just needs to get past his hermetic Bywater obsession and have a full-fledged comeback concert at a larger venue like The House of Blues.
His new songs were that good. They were impenetrable rock/pop/country/soul/gospel numbers. The set sounded like Pirner had Elvis, Victoria Williams, Aaron Neville, Sheryl Crow and Johnny Cash on shuffle, absorbed it all, then used the best aspects of each artist to write songs. Pirner had a strong voice and a talented band. Pirner took guitar, vocal and trumpet duties, while he had Nobu Ozaki on double bass, Dave Sobel on drums, Trevor Brooks on synthesizer, and Trina Shoemaker on background vocals.
The band’s best songs were upbeat shufflers with a spiritual tilt. They were served by Brooks' beautiful harmonies and organ simulation. One was a knee-slapping testimonial. Other versions of Dave Pirner included a straight pop/rock song about obsession and a pensive, raw slow rocker about lost love.
Pirner introduced the band as "Wingin' it." With key signature reminders and abrupt endings, I'd agree. They pulled it off anyway. The band was at their best during the first half of the show, when they barreled through Pirner's new material and a soulful boogie-piano cover of Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now."
The group stumbled and lost the crowd’s attention when they headed into unrehearsed territory, covering "All Apologies," "Waterfalls," and "Gone ‘Till November." If Pirner didn’t know a lyric or a piece of a song, he shrugged it off or looked to Brooks for guidance, who saved his ass on a few occasions.
With some more originals added to the set and a lot of rehearsal, Pirner will go far again. He’s got the knack.