Dirty Guv’nahs: Night Two or The Last Waltz for the Bijou?

It has become impossible for me to say which Dirty Guv’nahs concert is best or even better than another. They are all generally spectacular or memorable in their own way. Last night was no exception though, at the least, I think I can pronounce it the concert with the best encore/coda.

The Features opening for the Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, April 2011

The night opened with The Features. It was the second consecutive Nashville opener and in introducing them, James declared that they are his favorite band in Tennessee. They were interesting. The energy level was very high, which made them entertaining enough. The vocals were odd, quirky and interesting, but in place of what should have been solos, the band just played really loud and fast. Apparently the only instrument in which they are interested in spotlighting was the whistling of the lead vocalist. Interesting? Yes. Worthy of being anybody’s favorite band in Tennessee? I don’t think so.

Wayne Chishom introduces the Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, April 2011

Cozmo rocking a solo, Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, April 2011
Wayne Chisholm introduced the band and the night took off. It’s hard for me to name particular songs as standouts in the main set. I enjoyed Brown Little Bird and I’m always happy to hear Oh, Jericho, which James said was played in response to a request on Facebook. Chris apparently worked so hard on the keyboard that it completly fell apart. The bottom set of keys became detached, fell to the floor and ultimately had to be clamped into place with a vice grip and supported with a stool. They played their way through their entire catalog, reaching back to their earliest work, which is no longer available, through songs off their current album, Youth is in Our Blood, and onto unreleased and, as yet, unnamed songs.
Clowning during “Baby We Were Young

Dirty Guv’nahs joined by the Lenoir City High School Choir

As he’s done many times, James annointed this the best night ever for the Dirty Guv’nahs. In that regard he hasn’t changed. As I watched the concert and reflected on the group’s first five years, I realized they had changed tremendously in other ways. They are far better musicians and the band is miles from where they started as an overall unit. I also thought how much more mature James seems, both as a frontman and a person. Five years is a significant span of time in the life of a young person.

James climbs onto the drum stand and joins the choir.

Going balistic during “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

I remembered how an immature and foolish James had jumped from the stage of Barley’s Taproom years ago only to have the crowd part and provide him with an unimpeded trip to the floor. He’s so much more mature I was thinking . . . then he did it, again. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The guy got a running start and hurled himself outstretched into the Bijou Theater. By all accounts he made another clean fall to the floor once more. Memo to James: Keep the theatrics on the stage. You’ve tried it twice. Give it up, dude. We love you, man. We don’t want to lose you.

Cozmo foreground, his dad behind him on bass and his brother directing the choir.

James promised the encore would be one never to be forgotten and he was dead on. A couple of horns added spice to the later part of the show, giving it just that much more punch, infusing the music with a taste of southern fried soul, bringing to mind those great recordings by Stax Records in the late sixties on the other end of our state. For the encore they kept the brass and added a choir from Lenoir City High School. I’ve got to tell you brothers and sisters, those white children rocked the house. They sounded like a gospel choir in an A.M.E. Zion Baptist Church.

Happy Choir, Happy Guv’nahs say goodnight

The first song was one I didn’t know, though it was great, but I’m proud to say I predicted the finale before the encore began: You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones. When the Dirty Guv’nahs do the Rolling Stones it is always special. Give them a choir and this particular song and the roof is likely to blow. And it did.With his Dad pounding the bass and his brother directing the choir Cozmo brought the house on the lead guitar while James flailed all about the stage, apparently no worse for wear after the ill-advised dive, and sang like there was no tomorrow.

James adds a poignant coda to an amazing night.

A phenominal night ended with the choir and the band taking bows. Or did it? After probably two thirds of the audience had exited, with the house lights up and recorded music playing over the PA, the lights went out once more. After a few moments of confusion, James walked back out onto the stage as if he could not bear to let the night end. He played “Aimee May” off the now out-of-print “Don’t Need No Money” EP, accoustic and solo. He left the stage declaring that this would be the last time the Guv’nahs would play the Bijou. He said the next time would be down the street at the Tennesee.

Maybe this was the last waltz for the Dirty Guv’nahs in this small a venue in Knoxville. While I’d miss seeing them in smaller spaces, I hope it happens for them. They deserve to be huge. They are doing their part, here’s hoping the industry gods and timing are on their side.

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