Gig Review: American Music Club @ Manchester Academy 3, 6th February 2008

American Music Club @ Manchester Academy 3
My blogging “career” started with a review of American Music Club at the Academy 3 (or Hop And Grape as it was then known) almost three years to the day of their return to the same venue. In the years between, their line-up has changed considerably with just Mark Eitzel and Vudi remaining of the original band and a new drummer and bass player on board. They also have a new album, The Golden Age, which was released a couple of days before the gig. Three years ago, I praised the band for not playing any songs from their godawful San Francisco album; this year, unfortunately, they started out with that album’s “Hello Amsterdam”, perhaps my least favourite AMC song of all time. Surprisingly, it rocked. The sound mix was terrible: the guitars sounded like mud and you could barely hear Eitzel’s vocals, but it was a raucous mess and a far more enjoyable experience that I could have hoped for. Fittingly, they followed this with “Blue And Gray Shirt”, the band’s finest moment, in my book, and it was a beautiful version – with the sound problems fixed, Eitzel’s yearning vocals and sublime guitar work was worth the £17 price of a ticket alone.

Much of the rest of the set was taken up with material from the new album, which I bought at the gig and which I’m a little bit disappointed with after a couple of listens. The versions of the likes of “The Sleeping Beauty”, “All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco” and especially “Windows On The World” carried far more punch than their recorded counterparts. Eitzel’s raw, plaintive vocals and Vudi’s beautifully controlled swells of guitar really brought these songs to life whereas on the album they sound a little leaden. In amongst the new tracks were the occasional dips into the back catalogue which veered from the dull “Revolving Door” to the brilliant “Johnny Mathis’ Feet” but included little from their pre-Mercury heyday.

There was plenty of audience banter and some rambling stories from Eitzel, who was on excellent form. We learned that he had spent Christmas watching figure skating with bass player Sean Hoffman, and that the excellent “Decibels And The Little Pills”, the highlight of the new album, is the re-telling of an eventful night at a heavy metal gig. When the much requested “Western Sky” was played, one unhappy punter asked them to play it again, but a better version. He got his wish in the encore when Eitzel told him he was going to play it “right up his ass” and produced a beautiful solo rendition which did indeed improve on the full band version from earlier. It was a shame that he chose to play one song twice when so many other classic songs were passed over, but overall, despite a couple of bum notes, it was a very enjoyable night.

American Music Club – Blue And Gray Shirt

American Music Club – Decibels And The Little Pills

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