Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Christopher Owens, Formerly of Girls, Mesmerizes a Sit-Down 9:30 Club

Many dozens of shows viewed at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. and this was a first for me. A sit-down concert.

So there Gordie, Dan, Rachel, and I were in the third row Sunday night where we got a thrilling display from Christopher Owens, formerly of Girls (a band I missed back in 2009 when they were very obscure).

I thought it might simply be an acoustic, one-man set. But no, all the pieces from his brilliant new solo album - saxophone, flute, two female backup singers, lead guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboard - were there. I also thought Owens (seated in the photo) would be the only stage presence capturing our attention. But he has recruited a fascinating and mesmerizing cast of characters.

And that's saying a lot. It's not easy to compete with Owens, a guy whose back story includes growing up in California's way-out Children of God cult (which apparently hired thousands of female escorts to recruit members into their sexually, shall we say, adventurous, family).

Further, Owens is a premiere musician. I've waited a long time to see him. (Girls' album Father, Son, Holy Ghost was ranked #1 in my top 70 list of 2011 and the band's self-titled debut was a way under-ranked #16 in my 2009 top 40.) The wait may have been wise, because I would be shocked if the solo album, called Lysandre, will be anywhere lower than my top three of 2013, but we'll see.

In short, his two-and-a-half Girls albums and now his solo one are almost entirely flawless. This was really, really apparent Sunday night because the first half of the show consisted of songs off his new album and had arguably much better lyrics and music than the second half of the show, which was made up of well-done soft-rock covers all largely regarded as classics in the rock 'n' roll cannon like "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Wild World" by Cat Stevens, "Lalena" by Donovan, and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by Bob Dylan. It was almost as if Owens was trying to rub it into his idols' faces that he's better.

My only complaint is that he didn't play any of those great songs off his Girls albums. But that's a small complaint. Hopefully he'll release another solo record in the next year or so, and he can play his original material for a lot longer into the night next time. (Openers Melted Toys provided an enjoyable jolt of 80s wave with memorable guitar licks liberally scattered throughout.)

****1/2 out of ***** stars

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