by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
The main point Denver Dalley made during our recent interview — and in most other interviews of his I’ve read — is that Desaparecidos is a playground for the guys in the band, a full-on good time where — no matter what else is going on in their lives — they can enjoy playing their music and just being together.
And it was obvious watching them on stage last night at a sold-out Waiting Room that they were having the time of their lives. But I have to admit, frontman Conor Oberst always looks like he’s having a good time on stage except when he’s clearly NOT having a good time (Like at some of those early Bright Eyes shows legendary for his unpredictable incendiary behavior). And really, when doesn’t Denver, Landon Hedges and Matt Baum look like they’re having fun no matter what band they’re playing in? (Is it even possible for a guy like Dalley to not have a good time?).
That said, last night’s set felt like an effortless party. Their strategy of releasing singles every few months has proven to be a smart one — it keeps their set sounding fresh, and makes the older material glow that much brighter. As big and bombastic as ever, Desa never sounded better. I credit the TWR stage and environment, which feels intimate while delivering full-on concert sound.
Oberst was in rare form, though his voice was hoarse at times, especially on those high notes. Good thing Landon was there to fill in the gaps. Here’s a secret: Hedges has a better voice, but when the material calls for screaming more than singing, it doesn’t really matter.
Like all Desa shows, there were the obligatory political comments between songs, but none were heavy handed. Oberst mentioned the Concert for Equality and how proud he was that those shitty Fremont housing laws got overturned.
He spoke in support of against-the-grain ideas. “Socialism isn’t a dirty word. Communism isn’t a dirty word,” he said as he introduced “The Underground Man,” the B-side of the band’s most recent single.
He pointed out that Omaha is a segregated town, a racist town. Paraphrasing, he said black people live in North Omaha. Hispanic people live in South Omaha and white people live in West Omaha “and the only time they look each other in the eye is when they drive by each other in their cars.” I think he knew he was stating the obvious. “I don’t know where I’m going with this… get to know someone who doesn’t look like you.”
The comments weren’t so much angry as matter-of-fact statements. Let’s face it, no one wants to be preached at, especially at a party.
The set closed with “Greater Omaha,” which he introduced saying “This song is about where we’re standing right now.” Is it? I always thought that song was about the miles and miles of beige houses spread out across the freeways and traffic lights and drive-through windows west of 120th Street. Maybe not.
Like I said, the band sounded especially good last night. It was the first time I really noticed Dalley’s blazing guitar work — he handled the difficult stuff, the technical intros and the counter solos that cut through all the chopping going on around him. Drummer Baum did his usual between-songs madman yelling from back of the stage. When he egged the audience on to “move around more,” Oberst cut in with, “No, just stand there as still as possible and try to send as many texts as you can.”
After the obligatory exit stage left, the band returned for an encore that included the single “Anonymous,” before Oberst called opening band, Brooklyn’s So-So Glos. to join them for a cover of The Clash’s “Spanish Bombs,” which strangely was the one song that stuck in my head as I walked back to my car. (The set list pretty much matched their show in Lawrence the night before, which is online here).
Afterward I chatted with a guy outside who said Desaparecidos is the best thing Conor has ever done. Well, it’s certainly the funnest music he’s ever played, the most sonically violent. Whether Oberst finds Desa to be the most satisfying thing he does only he can say. Which brings up that question: Will they really keep it together this time like Denver said in the interview? It’s hard not to be skeptical considering every temptation that Oberst has dangled before him.
Concert notes: Though a sell-out, The Waiting Room felt nice and roomy because they removed all the tables. Moving around was a snap. The sound at TWR just seems to get better and better. And thanks to the Lazy-i reader who bought me a draw of Rolling Rock! I’ll get you back at the next show…
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The party continues tonight at The Waiting Room as LA funkmeisters Orgone returns with support from Satchel Grande. $9, 9 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.