Elvis Perkins in Dearland: 4 December 2009 - Bowery Ballroom, New York / Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner
Recording artist Elvis Perkins and his multi-instrumentalist band of minstrels visited the Bowery Ballroom last Friday, gently closing the gap between folk and rock along the way. It was the first of two stops in the city in support of his latest effort, Doomsday EP, recorded with his trusty backing band Dearland. Fittingly, the group’s set began with a dirge, Perkins and his associates main lining through the Ballroom for “Slow Doomsday” before fully unwrapping it upon reaching the stage. Their sound ached and moaned in all right spots—something that Elvis Perkins in Dearland maintained all night. Though the audience’s dysfunctional dynamics often became their own distractions (the quiet half of the crowd yelling at the less attentive half to shut up; couples making out while groups of guys high-fived each song; Facebook updates from the first row) Elvis and his brilliantly adaptable band managed to transcend it all. Jumping from folk intimacies like “While You Were Sleeping” to “Stop Drop Rock and Roll,” Perkins proved his bygone lyrics could transform any style in his repertoire. But it wasn’t entirely Elvis. A pair of violinists provided swaths of drama to numerous tunes while a trumpet player joined trombone player, gorgeous harmonizer, and instrumentalist Wyndham Boylan-Garnett for a brassy introduction to the full-throttled version of “Doomsday,” which wrapped up the band’s set. Its beer-hall oomph was rowdy and visceral enough to get even the meekest crowd members bobbing (namely the boys from opener Bowerbirds yelling out to Elvis from the front row.) The brief revelry felt as old-fashioned as Perkins’ standard-issue frames, but his insightful lyrics and beautiful arrangements won’t go out of style anytime soon.