Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Live in Seattle, WA

Photo jacked from Elvis’ MySpace

Tractor Tavern
Seattle, WA
March 30, 2007

The Tractor Tavern was the most appropriate host for the wistful Elvis Perkins and his backing band, Dearland. The grimy floors, dusty cowboy boots draped along the ceiling, multi-colored strings of light hung won ton across the ceiling and the bar’s propensity to serve only beer (and an excellent Texas beer at that – Shiner) and simple liquor drinks all set the mood for the bare bones country truth of Elvis Perkins.

A grubby and more organic version of Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Perkins speaks his gospel of tragedy in surprisingly upbeat whisks of toe tapping, harmonica-laden introspection. With a noble upright bass backbone and brassy glimpses of tambourine, trumpet and vibraphone Elvis sang of the stories of people and the lives they lead, much like greats Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen before him. He has a lot of wearisome material to work with: his father, Anthony Perkins, died of AIDS-related pneumonia and his mother, Berry Berenson, was killed in the September 11 attacks. Such dreadful events certainly have induced the melancholic amble of his sound and the poignancy in what he has to say. It seems to mean so much more spilling from the mouth of a true sufferer.

The slow introspectiveness of such songs as “It’s A Sad World After All” and “The Night And The Liquor” don’t bore, but instead pull you to attention. That kind of measured and solemn delivery are what make his performances so memorable. A supposedly technically difficult song for Elvis Perkins in Dearland, “Ash Wednesday” – the title track of his new album, was the most startlingly beautiful of the evening. His voice, rising to a stirring but contained cry, shook loose all emotional inhibitions. No flaws were detectable to my ears, and judging from the rapt concentration of the crowd, no one else noticed either.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland delivered on Friday night. The performance wasn’t shaky, the crowd wasn’t restless – it just seemed right that night. Being from Texas, it felt a little bit like coming home and that was such a welcome respite from the northwestern chill.

-Shrie Bradford

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