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Elvis Perkins in Dearland – The Bowery Ballroom – March 25, 2009

March 26th, 2009

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Elvis Perkins has one of those voices. It’s some combination of Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan, and the better you can hear it, the more you’ll enjoy it. That was the case last night at The Bowery Ballroom. As the set continued, and the sound in the room coalesced around his vocals, the music bordered on irresistible. Perkins also has quite a voice in the other meaning of the word. His perspective is also a combination of Holly and Dylan: a joyful sneer. It takes a certain voice to sing, “Black is the color of a strangled rainbow,” as Perkins bellowed during the single “Shampoo,” off his sophomore self-titled effort.

But the opener—Kenny Wolleson’s whacked-out marching band, the Himalayas—really elevated the music. No fewer than 20 strong (mostly horns), they set the tone early, mashing good-times beats with my-brain-hurts soundscapes before marching into the crowd and up into the balcony. Various members of the collective later popped up in the Dearland set, punctuating the songwriting with commas, semicolons and plenty of exclamation points.

It’s always good to have one of those songs in your back pocket that gives you goose bumps from the first note ’til the (always-too-soon) end. Elvis Perkins in Dearland saved their hair-raiser for last: a gorgeous “While You Were Sleeping” with a trombone and some reeds to elevate it to that next level. Then, exiting concertgoers met up with Wolleson and Co., jamming in the streets, the music uncontained. A small crowd filed into the subway station, resonating horns against the innards of the city, until finally dissipating. —A. Stein