Vetiver – The Bowery Ballroom – May 13, 2015
It felt like two shows for the price of one at The Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night as Vetiver acted as a Janus-faced band splitting their set neatly down the middle. The first half of the show was predominantly self-described “mellow” songs like the apt-titled opener, “I Must Be in a Good Place Now,” from the 2008 album Thing of the Past. Frontman Andy Cabic was like a guide, using his songs to show off his wonderful band. Eric Johnson, who opened the show solo with an excellent set of his own, was featured from the opening notes, singing strong harmonies with Cabic and mixing in keyboards as well.
The rest of the group took the spotlight throughout the first phase of the show, “From Now On,” the hot-off-the-presses Complete Strangers album’s second track, featured overlapping rhythm guitars and free-flowing melodic bass. “Last Hurrah” was a highlight of this first section, ethereal guitar and oozing bass accompanying Cabic as he sang, “Silence relieves me/ Speaks when I can’t.” The comfortable crowd squeezed in close to the stage, giving the club an intimate feel. Almost exactly halfway through, Cabic exchanged his acoustic guitar for an electric one, took off his flannel and transformed the set to a more T-shirt-and-jeans up-tempo groover.
For phase two, each song took a different approach, from ’60s psych to happy grooving to heavy blues-out to sunny-day funk to country-flecked rocker. Everyone in the band got to put on a second face, particularly the drummer, who expertly pushed and pulled the band through the genre hopping. The high point of the night was probably “Current Carry,” a song that would have been a perfect fit for the FM radio of yore. Live, it was a slide-guitar disco—a release from and culmination of all that preceded. The set ended with Cabic back on acoustic guitar, once again dipping back to Thing of the Past with “The Swimming Song,” Johnson on banjo while the imagery of the lyrics and the melody filled the space. A three-song encore found Vetiver turning the other cheek one last time, the band at their most rocking, finishing with “Ride Ride Ride,” the garage rock of the driving-with-the-top-down open road. —A. Stein | @Neddyo