Okkervil River – Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY – November 23, 2015
With ten years out in the aural universe, Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy seems even more layered and nuanced then when it debuted. And to hear the album live in 2015, it inches ever closer to a live being. This past Monday ended a three-night stand at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City where Okkervil River, with its captain from day one, Will Sheff, steered a rabid, packed crowd into the darkness.
With inspiration originally drawn from Tim Hardin’s song “Black Sheep Boy” and Hardin’s struggles with addiction, Black Sheep Boy is a travelogue of pain and desire in black and white strokes with color shadows. And the band carries the torch of this masterwork wherever it goes musically. Sheff knows this, so to start the show with a handful of solo songs that predate the album is a grand move. Self-deprecating and happy to expound on origin anecdotes, Sheff showed why his brainchild is so much vaster and rewarding than just the album he and his current band were about to perform.
Only a few chords into the title track, Okkervil River swept up the anticipation of the crowd to create a frenzied, raw power. “For Real,” the gut-punch suicidal battle-cry was awesome to behold. The epic tone poem “A Stone,” which has morphed into a semi-country ballad live, was as gorgeous as ever. And to have Jonathan Meiburg, now permanently with Shearwater but one-time Okkervil River member play on the latter and majority of the set, was really as much of a treat as hearing the album itself. Beyond the main set were songs not originally on the album and part of an appendix to the work. They, including “No Key, No Plan,” showed off why they deserved their existence in the first place and why they should be heard in a live setting.
An early holiday treat for sure, Okkervil River’s celebration of Black Sheep Boy showcased one of rock’s greatest voices in Sheff and one of the best concept albums of the new millennium.
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 25, 2015.
Photos ©2015 Chris Sikich. All rights reserved.