Music lovers and potomologists alike felt the flow of Dr. Dog’s full-bodied show on Monday night in Portland. Throughout the evening, these modern day, East Coast Beach Boys let their harmonic voices wash over the crowd, cleansing concertgoers like a powerful river spewing from the Crystal Ballroom’s stage. It was an evening that started out very pure and serenely, but eventually had the audience drowning in warped vocals and gasping for breath.
Opening on the softer side with “Ain’t It Strange” off of their 2007 release We All Belong, the band buoyed a majestic feeling while stretching their vocals high above the Crystal crowd. Rolling into “These Days” and “The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer,” it was clear their river of sound would be picking up pace and the melodies would be the driving winds. The lights quickly went from stationary to oscillating, projecting a swirling mass of color on the crowd and ornate ceiling of Portland’s famous ballroom. By this point, the band was pitch-perfect and the crowd was in full-blown sing-along mode. A very solid, danceable, three-song set culminated with Be The Void’s twangy opener “Lonesome.”
But just as every river has its raging rapids, it also has its reservoirs and dams. Following “Lonesome,” B-Room’s “Love” slowed down the tempo and the energy of the crowd, giving everyone a rest from dancing but also taking away the strong flowing vibe that took three songs to build up. Although an enjoyable track that displays each band members' vocal range, it felt a little out of place in the set list, especially when followed by the catchy tunes “Broken Heart” and “Heavy Light.” The night’s pace was slowed a few other times with such songs as “Oh No” and “The Truth.”
The lore and mixology of rivers can usually be attributed to their deep and rich history, and to that extent, Dr. Dog dug deep into theirs going back as far as 2002’s Toothbrush for the song “Say Ahhh”—clearly a song that distinguished Dr. Dog’s new followers from their old, but one that kept everyone aware of what the band is capable of with their ample discography.
With each of Dr. Dog’s past seven albums acting as tributaries to their current set list, it’s interesting to see the influence that each year brings to both their older and newer songs when now played live. Songs such as “Long Way Down” and “The Beach” dove far deeper into the realm of psychedelia than their original studio versions, at times feeling more like something influenced by the voodoo sounds of Dr. John. Songs such as “Cuckoo” and “Warrior Man” became far more spacey and jammy with the full use of synths in the live setting.
By the end of the night, the audience was treated to two very popular fan favorites (“Jackie Wants A Black Eye” and the Architecture in Helsinki cover “Heart It Races”) and a deep five-song encore, the highlight being a dark, dirty and muddled version of “The Beach.” And as the music made its final push over the crowd, there was no longer the simple, clear stream that Dr. Dog began with, but now a swirling mix of sound where the beauty floated in the complexity.