Live Review: Shiver Shiver; Oberst at #37 in UK, 2010 until Bright Eyes returns?

Category: Blog — @ 1:33 am August 12, 2008

I’ve commented to a few people who hang out at Slowdown that the venue’s small stage — a.k.a. Slowdown Jr. — has all the makings of the perfect jazz club. Actually, Slowdown’s bar vibe — all black tile and shiny surfaces, exposed ceiling and dark, ambient lighting — doesn’t feel so much like punk/indie as much as urban hip (as in an NYC club). Maybe it’s the tables with the glass votive candleholders or the intimate stage with its glimmering, pristine sound. I don’t know. I also don’t know if Omaha even has a viable jazz scene these days. I know its history (I’ve interviewed the late Preston Love a few times), but other than the antiseptic Jazz on the Green muzak festival, I’m not aware of anything going on around town.

I say all this as a lead-up to last Saturday night’s Shiver Shiver CD release show at Slowdown Jr. SS, to me, isn’t so much a rock band as a hybrid of pop and smooth jazz, not so much Steely Dan as Bob James with Squeeze, Ben Folds and Todd Rundgren thrown in. As I said last week, I’d heard the band perform twice — at O’Leaver’s and at “Dario-fest” — and neither performance captured the essence of their recordings. Last Saturday night’s show did, thanks to Slowdown’s jazzy vibe and state-of-the-art sound system. The two-piece of Jordan Elsberry and Chase Thornburg glided through a set of songs off their new album, Soulless Sex Appeal, with the casualness of seasoned road veterans playing yet another gig. Drummer Thornburg is a jazzy Max Weinberg, just an amazing guy on the skins. But it’s Elsberry who plays the role of frontman. Looking like a bespectacled Adam Samberg standing behind a pair of keyboards in faux Armani (actually, both wore suits), he got the crowd of 100 or so grooving with his bouncing keys and swarthy vocals. As one member of one of the city’s more popular Creek-related bands said from the side of the stage, no one around town is doing anything like this. They’ve got the market to themselves playing a style of music that has a universal appeal (certainly more so than Slowdown’s usual bands). Now we’ll see if they do anything with it, as in hit the road and make a name for themselves outside of Nebraska. They certainly have the chops to do it…

I couldn’t let the evening get away without dropping by The Saddle Creek Bar for the Big Al 1-year anniversary show. I only caught the last few minutes of the Filter King’s roaring set before they packed up and headed off to The Niner for yet another show. Big Al and Metal Barbie ripped into the same set of home-made metal standards (with the volume turned to 11) that they played a year ago. including “Oregano,” “It’s War You Die” “Cold Hard Steel” and all the rest, along with a second helping of “Oregano” just before 1 a.m. Now it’s onto year two, which one hopes will bring with it some new material…

* * *

Billboard reports that Conor Oberst’s self-titled solo CD debuted at No. 37 on the UK album charts, where it’s competing with the likes of Coldplay, Abba and Rihanna. So how well did it do on the U.S. charts? We’ll have to wait and see. For what it’s worth, the album currently stands at No. 6 on the iTunes download chart, fueled in part by a massive feature in last Friday’s New York Times by Jon Pareles (here). An interesting scheduling comment at the end of the piece: Pareles said Oberst had a year of work lined up outside of Bright Eyes, what with a solo tour that will last well into next year and a new record with M. Ward and Jim James (There’s no word what label that’ll be released on). If that’s the case, don’t expect another Bright Eyes album until 2010, maybe longer…

In other Saddle Creek news, DCist reported last week (here) that Georgie James, one of the Creek’s more recent signings (May 2007) called it quits. Look for solo efforts by both members in the near future.

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