oysterhead - 11/06/01 State Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, OH

review submisions to me at dws@netspace.org or dws@gadiel.com

Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2001 01:45:32 -0500
From: Lane Jost jostl@kenyon.edu
Subject: Oysterhead -- 11.6.01, State Theater, Cleveland
11/06/01 State Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, OH
Owner Of The World, Army's On Ecstasy, Polka Dot Rose, Radon Balloon, Pseudo 
Rubberneck Lions, Wield The Spade, Birthday Boys, Mr. Oysterhead
E: The Israelites, Little Faces
    After nine years and 41 creative evenings spent with Phish, in cities
ranging from San Francisco to New York, my expectations were riding unfairly
high for the arrival of Oysterhead to Cleveland's downtown State Theater -- a
non-Phish breath of fresh air to say the least.  With Phish on a long overdue
hiatus, perhaps their loyal fans could appreciate something new, and let go
of the glorious past.  As a loyal and admiring fan of Trey Anastasio, I
entered the theater eager to see him collaborate with some of rock's most
talented musicians.  With no disrespect to Phish, a band created by
Anastasio, this was something inspiringly new and different -- at least on
    Now, I knew before driving up I-71 from Gambier, that a trio featuring
Les Claypool, Stewart Claypool and Trey Anastasio would be a union like no
other.  As a fan of The Police, and especially the drum heroics of Copeland,
I could not have been more excited when the fledgling Oysterhead performance
was announced back in Spring 2000.  That May New Orleans gig planted the seed
for the band's October release The Grand Pecking Order (Elektra).  After
digesting the album a few times, all judgments were to be held up until the
live version was to be experienced.  I liked the disc, though I can't admit
that I loved it like I love Rift or Ghost in the Machine.
    Les Claypool notwithstanding, Stewart Copeland and Trey Anastasio
represent the sort of creative originality that I admire as a musician and
as a music lover.  This spirit however, speaks very little of their ill-fated
musical marriage.
    On Tuesday night, Oysterhead never held a tune that captured my
attention, nor justified the price of my admission -- they were musically
awful.  Songs that drag on the album like "Shadow of a Man" and "Pseudo
Suicide," crawled to catastrophic halts.  The stronger album tunes such as
"Oz is Ever Floating," Rubberneck Lions and "Mr. Oysterhead," all suffered
from Les Claypool's inability to concede the spotlight, if only for enough
time to get a change right, to his fellow bandmates.  Not only were the
songs bad, they stunk of rotting shellfish.  And yet, though I like The Grand
Pecking Order, the gig proved that this group doesn't seem to like its own
briney buddies.
    The latter half of the set was full of noise, mostly from Les Claypool,
though Stewart Copeland did a nice job of proving which one actually had a
command of rhythm.  The thick, melodic funk/rock of the album was replaced by
the dense and aimless music of the stage.  I kept saying: "Am I the only one
so bored and horrified?"  Apparently I was:  the crowd methodically toked,
whilst donning their Grateful Dead tie-dies and "Trey is Good" t-shirts
exuding an air of neo-hippie arrogance.  It was indeed the crowd's
interaction with the band that really sent me to the exits feeling sour.
    During the lovely "Birthday Boys," Anastasio strummed on his acoustic
guitar to no avail: the red-headed guitarist could only shrug off the
insistent chants of "Play Phish" and "Trey is Good."  So, he simply waited
for the time when "Trey is Good" dude toked, and began to sing his song.
Joining Anastasio for the song's finale was "Les Clickety-Clack Claypool,"
as introduced by the red head himself.  Oh, but what happened prior explained
the guitarist's derision of "Clicket Clack."
    After singling out a fan in the front row who was wearing a t-shirt that
contained photos of Anastasio and Phish keyboardist Page McConnell, Claypool
thought it would be funny to editorialize.  So, just before "Birthday Boys,"
he announced into his mic that the fan's shirt was obviously a picture of
Trey, the bastard child of McConnell and Phish drummer Jon Fishman.  This
made little sense, and made even less to Anastasio, who quietly sneered, and
then started the next song.  How can an audience enjoy itself, when its
performers cannot?
    I am not a negative person, though I am critical.  And, Copeland singing
the haunting "Wield the Spade," as well as Anastasio's take on Desmond
Decker's "The Israelites," were both indisputable bright spots.  However, the
world will never be Oysterhead's oyster.
Lane Jost
"the thesis that you're writing is a load of shit,
  still, i am glad you finally finished it."

Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2001 14:44:00 -0500 From: dangel_a dangel_a@denison.edu 11/06/01 State Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, OH Owner Of The World, Army's On Ecstasy, Polka Dot Rose, Radon Balloon, Pseudo Suicide, Shadow Of A Man, Oz Is Ever Floating, Rubberneck Lions, Wield The Spade, Birthday Boys, Mr. Oysterhead* E: The Israelites**, Little Faces * with several Black Sabbath teases from Les ** Desmond Dekker cover last played on 5/4/00 I got back from the Cleveland Oysterhead show and I thought that it would be a good opportunity to write my first review. I'll try to cut most of the crap and focus on the music but forgive me if I ramble a little... The Venue: The State Theatre is a beautiful place to see a show. They hardley searched us at all on the way in and the staff was friendly. We found our seats easily and relaxed to the sounds of The Cancer Conspiracy. Good groove, obvious talent, but they need a little more diversity to their sound. They only played 4 or 5 songs and it got tough to tell one from the other. After their set I ran to get a beer ($4 for a draft actually isn't too bad) and then wandered around a bit, taking in the scene. Mostly heads, it seemed, but there was a good mix. I got another beer and reached my seat as O-Head came on and started with... Owner Of The World: a natural opener. I was looking forward to hearing this one and I wasn't disappointed. The band was energized and the crowd was pleased. I wasn't sure if Trey and Les' vocals would mix well but they sounded strong. Even the hamonies were really on. I wouldn't mind if Phish took a shot at this tune when they come back. Army's On Ecstasy: WOW. The first real hi-light. Les' rapid fire delivery was perfect and STEWART is a BEAST on the drums. The light show (courtesy of CK, i think) was brillient. A on E is definately one of my favorites now. *interlude* somewhere around here Les points out a sign in the fron that says "Trey is Good." Les mentions how there should be another one that says "Les is Evil" and one more that says "Stewart is somewhere in the middle." Funny shit...anyway... Polka Dot Rose: I wasn't as impressed with this song as I thought I'd be. It seemed a little lackluster and directionless as compared with the rest of the set. The crowd didn't seem to mind, though, so maybe I'm crazy. Radon Balloon: Excellent version of this one. Trey really ripped it up and Les was marching in circles around the stage, getting people fired up. The end faded and set us up for the monster that was... Pseudo Suicide: Hard rock time. Trey was really up in the mix and every time he made a rock star move the crowd went nuts. A raging wildebeast of a jam. Good stuff. Shadow Of A Man: A dark, drippy song that builds and builds. Lots of drum fills and bass craziness punctuated by Trey's guitar runs. Really trippy at parts and once again some nice vocal work by both Trey and Les. Then some great ambient sounds and a cool climax. (Did anyone else notice that the man in this song is named Billy Graham?) Oz Is Ever Floating: Trey seemed like he was itching to get into this one and his energy was evident in the tune. Lots of guitar here and some visual interaction between Trey and Stewart. Incedentally, I was expecting Les to be higher in the mix but he certainly wasn't overpowering. Rubberneck Lions: I really like the lyrics in this one, especially, "Rubberneck lions as I lie in bed/Three strips of bacon on my toasted head." A strong performance of this one, with Trey really coming alive and putting his effects to good use. Wield The Spade: I was unfamilar with this one so it was a real shock to see Stewart belt out his verse in such dramatic style. I was like he was reciting Hamlet or something. A solid effort and a well played tune. Nothing exceptional. Birthday Boys: Trey on his own on the acoustic at first and, for the most part, people were good about being relatively quiet. What a beautiful song. Reminds me of when he pulls out the acoustic to play Driver at Phish shows. Stewart and Les come back out (w/ Les on the Banjo, which he plays like a bass) and the song took on a bluegrass feel. Great energy and big smiles from the band. This song was a high-light. Mr. Oysterhead: Last song of the set and it was fine. Maybe not as energized as some versions I've heard on tape, but all in all a good closer. E:The Israelites, Little Faces: The Israelites was a real surprise. There didn't seem to be much recognition from the crowd, but I love this classic reggae tune. Little faces was a great way to close out the show and was a 180 degree shift from the song before it. Mellow groove to freak rock. Very cool and I left happy. Overall: You won't see too many bands that well fit such a good time into and hour and a half. I won't give it a rating, but do yourself a favor and catch am O-Head show if you haven't already. -A.J.

click here to return to the 2001 reviews page
hits (many)