When Mike Doughty announced that he was splitting from ATO to self-release Yes and Also Yes this year, it might have seemed logical for him to return to his early “Small Rock” solo roots. But the Brooklynite’s approach on Yes has much more in common with Haughty Melodic than the sparse compositions from Skittish, and after one listen it was pretty clear that – following a series of more intimate tours in support of 2009’s stripped-back Sad Man Happy Man – it was time for him to put the band together again.
So Doughty arrived in Boston on Tuesday with his Band Fantastic, establishing the mood immediately with a trio of crowd pleasers as the audience continued to fill up the Paradise. “(I Keep On) Rising Up,” “27 Jennifers” and “Tremendous Brunettes” pulled from Doughty’s major pre-Yes releases, but from that point on the main set leaned heavily on some of his new album’s finest moments.
“Strike the Motion” was delivered in tight, rapid-fire fashion, then the singer put down his guitar for the beat-driven “Rational Man.” “Into the Un” and “Day By Day By” were classic Doughty, with witty, rhythmic verses woven through singalong-inviting choruses, and “Na Na Nothing” emerged as perhaps his finest pure pop song since the Golden Delicious days. Sprinkled throughout were gems from throughout Doughty’s catalog, including the under-appreciated “American Car” (featuring some of my favorite lyrics of the last decade), the breezy jam “Lorna Zauberberg” and the Rockity Roll throwback “Ossining” alongside more obvious setlist staples.
Doughty was engaging as ever, joking somewhat inappropriately about roofies and advocating piracy (while also pointing out how sales of Yes and a live recording of the show would help put food in the band’s stomaches). And the Band Fantastic was, well, pretty fantastic in delivering the “Sizable Rock” goods. Andrew “Scrap” Livingston continued in his role as Doughty’s straight-man sidekick, trading in his upright instruments for this tour and attacking his electric bass with precision. “Cashmere” Dan Chen was back in the fold – as “Handsome” as on Doughty tours past – on keys, and Fiction Plane drummer “Indiana” Pete Wilhoit held things down on the kit.
Soul Coughing was somewhat of a revelation for me from the moment I randomly happened across the band playing a small side stage at a UConn spring concert. I credit the band with helping open my mind to more adventurous indie rock a few years before I might have otherwise gotten there on my own. But as much as I look back on Ruby Vroom with fondness, I have to admit that I have a much more satisfying relationship with the music of the sober Doughty of today than I do with the more obtuse, unhappy guy who emerged as the band pushed through the late ’90s. There wasn’t a sniff of Soul Coughing in Tuesday’s set, and I can’t say that I missed it one bit.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Moon Hooch – an upbeat, instrumental horns-and-drum trio discovered by Doughty while busking in a New York subway – made a good one in the opening slot, inciting numerous dance mobs and proving to be a great match for the headliner’s trademark sense of humor.
Mike Doughty’s Setlist:
(I Keep On) Rising Up / 27 Jennifers / Tremendous Brunettes / Strike the Motion / Rational Man / American Car / Into the Un / Down on the River by the Sugar Plant / Lorna Zauberberg / Day By Day By / Na Na Nothing / Russell / Busting Up a Starbucks / Vegetable / I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep on Dancing / Ossining / Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well // I Hear the Bells / Put It Down -> Pleasure on Credit
Mike Doughty & His Band Fantastic: