A few weeks ago, I saw Kevin Smith’s fourth film, Dogma. It was a terrific film, and I’d recommend it to anybody, but I went in with high expectations based on Smith’s first three films, all of which I consider classics (yes, even Mallrats). And even though Dogma was an excellent movie, I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed in comparison.
Last Sunday I saw Moxy Fruvous in concert for the fourth time at the Somerville Theater. Any guesses as to where this is going?
There were a few low points to be found in the show, and one of them was right at the beginning. The band opened with a kind of musical role call, as the band members emerged one at a time; first Mike played “Gord’s Gold” alone, then Mike and Jiam played “Homeward Bound,” followed by Mike, Jiam, and Murray playing a lounge rendition of “Spiderman,” until finally all four members took the stage to perform “River Valley.” The primary link between these four songs is that they’re all relatively laid-back and lacking in energy, and energy is what makes Moxy Fruvous shows great, so the concert got off to a slow start. Fortunately, the foursome finally kicked into gear with “You Will Go To The Moon,” which finally got the crowd moving.
Even the group’s improvised lines and stories, usually the highlight of their concerts, were a little below par on this occasion. The best impromptu lyric the band dropped during “King of Spain” was a weak “he’s a Chomskyite.” There was a story about crosswords and Selena that went on for far too long, and even the traditional Grandpa Fruvous number was a little uninspired. On the other hand, there were some brilliant bits involving The Matrix, Murray’s bass, the New Radicals, and empty seats in the front row. For most of them, you had to be there, but trust me, they were priceless.
As in any Moxy show, the music was executed gracefully on a plethora of instruments. Several songs that don’t normally grab me were surprisingly spellbinding, including “No No Raja” and a very powerful rendition of “Independence Day.” The set list was surprisingly short on cuts from the newest album, Thornhill; apart from “Splatter Splatter,” “Half As Much,” “Sad Girl,” and “I Will Hold On,” the band stuck to old chestnuts like “Lazy Boy,” “Michigan Militia,” and the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” Most of my favorite songs appeared as well, including the a capella masterpiece that is “Green Eggs and Ham” and the disco remix of “Video Bargainville,” but the absence of traditional tunes like “Fly” and “Horseshoes” left a noticeable void.
But overall, considering its weak start, the show really turned around and filled with energy, wrapping up in a performance of “The Drinking Song” that had the entire audience swaying back and forth, and many people raising palm pilots in tribute. And while I personally thought the concert was slightly inferior to my other Fruvous experiences, the rookies I brought along with me had nothing but good things to say about the show, so I’m apparently just spoiled.
Opener Sarah Slean definitely deserves a mention here; a relative newcomer to the music scene, Canadian songwriter Slean switched smoothly between light-hearted, charismatic exchanges with the audience (most of which were along the lines of “This is so cool!”) and extremely haunting and emotional piano compositions, invoking images of Tori Amos, but with a voice that is arguably even better. Slean has one of two futures ahead of her: either an imminent break into the mainstream and worldwide acclaim, or permanent near-anonymity and a rabidly loyal live fan base. Although the former would be a greater justice, the latter works for Moxy Fruvous. And on this day, that fan base was treated to two fabulous performances. Sometimes loyalty reaps unexpected rewards.