Well, last night Sleepytime Gorilla Museum put on the best show of the three I’ve seen thus far. Maybe it was just that I’m now familiar with all the songs — with very few exceptions they played stuff from In Glorious Times, as they have been doing for the past two years. But despite a surprisingly small crowd (smaller than in 2005, when they didn’t start until nearly midnight, and much smaller than three months ago, when they barely made it to DC thanks to a nasty ice storm), they were really on, both musically and theatrically.
They opened with “The Companions,” which they’ve been doing since I first saw them in 2005. Actually, technically they opened with a gimmick, parading slowly from the back of the club while playing some kind of brassy fanfare, walking straight into the middle of the crowd, finishing the fanfare, and then taking the stage. It was a highly amusing stunt and set the tone for the rest of the night. It’s amazing how these guys can be so creepy one moment and then completely and genuinely funny the next. After “The Companions” — which I found much more enjoyable after hearing it on the album, and I picked out some subtleties I’d never noticed before, like Carla Kihlstedt’s ghostly wordless backing vocals — they brought down the house with “The Widening Eye,” just as they did last time. I described this song last time (which was the first time I ever heard it) as a more metallic take on “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part 2″ — it’s easily my favorite song on the album, and it’s a real crowd-pleaser live.
After playing most of the songs on In Glorious Times, the band surprised me by playing some stuff from Of Natural History — previously I’d only heard them do “Phthisis,” but this time they played “The Freedom Club,” “Hymn to the Morning Star” (Nils’ voice in this song is just astonishing) and “The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity.” All of these songs killed and this reminded me that, as much as I dig the new album, Of Natural History is still easily my favorite of theirs. They did an encore of their new, tripped-out version of “Sleep Is Wrong,” which despite its funkiness I actually don’t like nearly as much as the original version, which is much more lean, mean and heavy.
Theatrically, the whole band was funnier and more animated than I’ve seen them, which is definitely saying something. This is even though the crowd was probably half as big as their last show at the Black Cat, which must have been disappointing.
Openers Stinking Lizaveta I found mildly disappointing; I’ve heard great things about them but aside from a couple songs I thought were great, they mostly played songs consisting of odd-time riff after odd-time riff, and I ended up finding them rather tiresome. Great musicians to be sure, but I just wasn’t a huge fan of the compositions.