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Five thoughts: Old 97’s at Vinyl (April 2)

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Old 97’s, performing Sunday night inside Vinyl.
Photo: Paul Citone/Kabik Photo Group
Jason Harris

1. Early in the set, frontman Rhett Miller noted that it was “weird that there is cigarette smoke” in a room they were playing. The four-piece alt-country trailblazers have likely seen just about everything as their popularity has swooned and dipped throughout a nearly quarter-century career (“20 good years of about 25,” as Miller put it). On this night, they played to a faithful and amped-up crowd at Vinyl, about 200 people, smokers and non-smokers alike.

2. Latest album Graveyard Whistling was well-represented, unsurprisingly. “Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls” was played at exuberantly quick pace, only outpaced by “Drinkin’ Song” which bordered on thrashabilly—and will hopefully remain a live staple going forward.

3. “Jesus Loves You”, also from the current album, is about as good a tune lyrically as you’ll find, combining great storytelling and humor. It opens, “Jesus love you more than I do/Just because He doesn’t know you/Not like I do”. And later, “Well, you can talk to him all night/But I’m right here/He makes wine from water/But I just bought you a beer.”

4. From the covers of covers department: the 1930s standard “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes,” memorably resurrected by punk band X in 1982. Miller stated that he recently saw X reignite the track live, adding, “We’ve been keeping it alive for the last 20 years.”

5. 1997 effort Too Far to Care dominated the end of the nigh, contributing three of the final six songs. “Barrier Reef” transported the crowd to a Texas honky-tonk. “House That Used to Be” sounded of its time but captured an old country spirit. And “Timebomb” was a live killer and a worthy encore closer.

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