I saw Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker at the Highline Ballroom last night. It was a standing room show, and the concert lasted about three hours. I’ve never been that keen on standing up at concerts, but it’s gotten even harder in recent years. There actually were tables, but they were all either taken or reserved. That said, it was enjoyable enough that I really didn’t notice the standing too much except during the intermission. David Lowery is the usual lead singer for both bands, so that’s a lot of performing for him. At the end of the show, he admitted he wasn’t feeling that well, but that certainly hadn’t affected the quality. I’ve been a fan of both bands for some time now. Although Cracker is considerably better known, and I’d technically heard of them first, it was CVB that was my personal gateway. I was seeking out music that had kind of an avant-garde feel but were still fun to listen to, and Camper qualified. At that point, only three of their albums were still in print, and while they did eventually re-release the others, I pretty much figured they were no longer a going concern; I started listening to them in the late nineties, and they’d broken up in 1990. Not too long after that, however, they reunited to tour together, and even made a few new albums. Cracker is more traditional in their style, but still really good.
CVB’s show generally includes a lot of instrumentals, and I can’t always remember which one is which. One I did recognize was “S.P. 37957,” which they combined with “Hava Nagila” like in the recording on Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead, Long Live Camper Van Beethoven. They only did one instrumental and two songs with lyrics from the post-reunion era; most of it was earlier stuff.
For Cracker, Jonathan Segel, who plays violin and occasionally guitar and keyboard for Camper, played keyboards. I think this might have been the first show I’d seen with Bryan Howard on bass, and he was looking quite stylish in his bright red jacket. David Immergluck played keyboard and mandolin with CVB and guitar on a few Cracker songs.
Lowery explained that he had originally been in the Monks of Doom, a CVB side project, before becoming a guitarist for Counting Crows; but still plays quite often with Camper and Cracker. They introduced as “Gimme One More Chance” as co-written by Lowery, Immergluck, and Johnny Hickman. I think this might have been the first time I’ve seen Cracker live where they didn’t play “Eurotrash Girl.” For the encore, before Lowery came back out, the rest of the band played a song I didn’t know that’s apparently an Alabama State Troupers cover. Since they generally don’t include that many songs in the setlist where Johnny sings lead, I’m kind of disappointed one of the two this time was “Another Song About the Rain,” not one of my favorites of his. It’s not bad, but it kind of drags live. Oh, well. I’ve seen that some people really don’t like the songs where Johnny sings lead at all, but I usually like his somewhat more country-tinged sound.