Review: Divine Fits tingle spines at the Newport
Five quick thoughts on Divine Fits' performance Wednesday at Newport Music Hall:
(1) I attended the indie supergroup's show at Ace of Cups last summer. (As Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel pointed out, that was their fifth concert all-time; this was their 22nd). I enjoyed it, but I left feeling slightly underwhelmed. Wednesday's Newport show was tremendous, no hesitation, no doubt. Not sure whether the bigger room made Divine Fits' new wave-damaged indie rock feel more momentous, or whether they've just found a new gear over these past few months, or whether I was just out of it last August. But wow, this... this was a contender for concert of the year when all I was expecting was a pleasant romp.
(2) I don't mind Daniel's songs sounding exactly like Spoon; "Flaggin' a Ride" and "Would That Not Be Nice" are among Divine Fits' best. Nor were Boeckner's more Wolf Parade-y moments ("Baby Gets Worse") unwelcome. But I enjoyed how much of Wednesday's performance felt like a different kind of animal. Particularly impressive was the set-closing rendition of "For Your Heart," which absolutely flummoxed me with its imposing power. It got way darker and more expansive than I expected from a unit known for keeping things peppy and taut. My only complaint about the setlist is that I'm still not loving "Neapolitans," which you can see above, as an opener.
(3) Honestly, though, I could spend a whole night listening to Divine Fits play covers. Working in tunes by Tom Petty and Frank Ocean shows some serious range, and they owned both tunes. Nothing compared, though, to thedevestatingly awesome cover of The Birthday Party's "Shivers" that served as Wednesday's encore. It was basically the same version you hear onA Thing Called Divine Fits, and it was wonderful. Special props to Daniel's anxious tremolo strums timed perfectly with the line about sending shivers down a spine, which acheived the desired effect.
(4) At the Ace of Cups show, I wasn't close enough to see Columbus-based drummer Sam Brown. I could see him just fine this time, and he looked so happy, which in turn made me so happy for him. He deserves to play in a band this famous.
(5) Speaking of Columbus connections, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion co-headlined the show, the result of merging this gig with Spencer's planned show at The Basement. At first I was put off by Spencer's embrace of rock cliche and his no-bass approach, but eventually none of that mattered. It was only rock 'n' roll, and it succeeded. There was one frill in an otherwise no-frills performance, though; if the man has to choose between bass and Theremin, I'm glad he chose Theremin.