Rhett Miller 12/19/2007

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Jan 2 2008, 20h23

Wed 19 Dec – Rhett Miller

In my 10+ years of being an Old 97's fan, I have never had the opportunity to see the band live, so I jumped at the chance to see Rhett Miller solo on Wednesday, December 19, as part of the Horseshoe Tavern's month-long 60th anniversary party. Even though Miller's last solo album was very underwhelming (2006’s The Believer), I had heard that he and his band put on a great show, so I was really looking forward to this gig.

When I arrived I was disappointed to see no stage set-up. When they say solo, they mean solo! And, the place was empty! Although there were several local musicians in the audience, including Justin Rutledge. A minute later Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo walked in. Who else was going to show up? Freakin' Neil Young?

When Miller took the stage there were maybe 100 people in the tavern. He immediately dispelled my “solo” fears when he launched into a blistering version of Melt Show, attacking his acoustic guitar and flailing around the stage rock-star style. I hadn’t realized want an incredibly charismatic dude Miller is! He played for nearly an hour and a half, and blasted through a wide range of 97’s favorites, a few of his solo tunes, as well as requests from the audience. Additionally, he played three or four new tunes that the 97’s have recorded for a reported April 2008 release.

He engaged and interacted with the audience, and told funny stories about how much he loves Canada (who doesn’t love Canada?), at one point raising his glass of whiskey and toasting “O Canada!” Then he told a story of how he knows how to sing and play the national anthem since he has done it at Dallas Stars games on numerous occasions. “You never know when the Canucks will be in town.” Silence. Uhhh, dude you are in Leafs country. He gave shout outs to The Sadies, Blue Rodeo (who the Old 97’s opened for last summer), and other Canadian acts.

He preformed the song Question in both French and English, which blew me away. Then he reminded the audience that Question was used as the background music for the Xbox NHL 2K4 or 2K5 television advertisement “up here,” meaning in Canada. I bet he had to translate the song to record it for airing the commercial in Quebec.

We all know the story of the Billy Bragg/Wilco fallout on Mermaid Avenue Volume 2, where creative differences between Bragg and Jeff Tweedy caused them to abandon their joint tour. What I did not know is that Bragg had asked the Old 97’s to substitute for Wilco on the tour promoting Vol. 2. Miller told the story of learning all of the songs in preparation for the tour, but at the last minute the British government would not issue the band visas for entrance into England. He then went into California Stars, and, since I think he has a much better voice than Jeff Tweedy does, he really nailed it. One of the highlights of the show for me. And, thanks to the British government, the Old 97’s are still in Jeff Tweedy’s good book.

At the end of the show Miller promised to bring back the 97s for a show in the spring. I cannot wait! And, I will never doubt a “solo” show again!


Very rough set list, not in order, and completely from memory, so I am probably missing some tracks:

Melt ShowToo Far To Care (1997)
OppenheimerFight Songs (1999)
Singular GirlThe Believer (2006)
QuestionSatellite Rides (2001)
Four Eyed Girl - The Instigator (2002)
This Is What I DoThe Instigator
The New KidDrag It Up (2004)
The ElThe Instigator
FirefliesThe Believer
(normally a duet with a female voice, he did both parts himself, although several people from the audience offered to help, and of course I would have taken one for the team)
California Stars(cover) – Billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue (1998)
Help Me Suzanne - The Believer
World Inside The World - The Instigator
Designs On YouSatellite Rides
My Valentine - The Believer
Some Jon Langford song that I couldn’t place, but he really massacred it and forgot the second verse.
TimebombToo Far To Care
3 or 4 new Old 97’s songs

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