concert reviews

Okkervil River at the Rock N Roll Hotel, Washington, DC, Sunday 30 September 2007

Despite Okkervil River singer-guitarist Will Sheff's confession that he and the rest of the band were feeling under the weather Sunday night, the group's 90-minute set at the Rock & Roll Hotel was energetic to the point of exuberance. It would be easy to write off their bouncy instrumentation and Sheff's slightly atonal bellow as mere sloppiness, but their imprecision is due more to their unbridled enthusiasm than to carelessness.

Sheff visibly embraced his band's rough edges: Approaching the edge of the stage during "The Latest Toughs," he sang with a shrug, "I don't know what notes you want to hear played." Admittedly, Sheff didn't have much time to fret about notes, as many of his songs were sung as stream-of-consciousness tirades; the ranting "Song of Our So-Called Friends" and the theatrical "Plus Ones" progressed at a nearly breathless pace.

All of that energy did get a little exhausting, and the set's few mellower numbers ("A Girl in Port," "My Bad Days") seemed a bit incongruous in their slower tempos. The exception was the encore's opening song, "A Stone." Sheff and his acoustic guitar were backed only by a sparse slide guitar; the slower, thinner instrumentation enhanced the song's loneliness. But several songs later, the band was back to its usual tricks, with Sheff leading the crowd in a rowdy singalong to "Westfall."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 3 October 2007; Page C05
.: Selected discography: The Stage Names (Okkervil River, 2007); Black Sheep Boy (Okkervil River, 2005); Down the River of Golden Dreams (Okkervil River, 2003); Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See (Okkervil River, 2002).