Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker at The Granada Theater, July 27: Review
Seeing both Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker on the same bill was a perplexing experience. On the one hand, it was two of my favorite bands, each one responsible for a (different) decade's worth of quality alternative rock. On the other hand, since David Lowery fronts both bands, the show had the feel of a musical autobiography; a Broadway production entitled the David Lowery Experience.
Bill Ellison/The Granada
But such certainly didn't distract from the value of the music. Or did it?
At least with Camper Van Beethoven's opening set, the experienced interplay between the musicians was clearly apparent, but the best moments were reserved for cover songs. Opening with Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men" and peaking with The Clash's "White Riot" and Black Flag's "Wasted," Camper's trip through '80s indie nostalgia was better in execution than it was in spirit.
Sadly, songs from the recently released La Costa Perdida didn't fare much better than the older "hits." Lowery introduced "Too High for the Love-In" as one of several of the new album's prog-rock epics. The collective audience moan was audible for miles. Supposedly the tale of violinist Jonathan Segel being bitten by a snake, "Too High" ends (finally) with the Lowery and crew chanting "Make me a sandwich."
One of the best original numbers was "All Her Favorite Fruit" (from 1989's Key Lime Pie). Slow and brooding, the song carries a romantic intensity that belies much of Camper's back catalog. Live, Lowery's urgent vocals create an even darker vibe. Interestingly, "Fruit" and the aforementioned "Matchstick Men" were recorded when Segel was out of the band, adding to the notion of both Camper and Cracker simply being vehicles for Lowery's presentation of his own musical history.