A shaggy crossbreed between Pink Floyd’s psychedelic guitar work, Beatles vocal harmonies, and the infectious glee of the Muppet house band, the southern-fried indie-rock of Dr. Dog tends to bring out the hippie head bobbers in a crowd, which as many noted, smelled better the further you got away from the crowded stage.
On the first date of their North American tour at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace Thursday night, Dr. Dog debuted a professional looking stage set-up, which illuminated the Philly five-piece plus a friend on tambourine (clad in their token toques and sunglasses) in swathes of greens, reds, and purples that changed with each down-stroke of their guitars.
Like their fans, Dr. Dog tend to pogo in unison to the beat of their songs like a chorus of bong-hitting Rockettes. They’re a doo-wop jam band for the modern age, with a new album, Shame, Shame, that pales in comparison to their live show’s intense energy and crushing wall of sound.
Opening with the album’s bouncy, reverb-heavy single “Stranger,” Dr. Dog got the crowd singing along to lines like, “I do believe that there is no more tricks up my sleeve.”
This was certainly false advertising, as the group easily shifted from ethereal barbershop harmonization to progressive bluegrass on “My Old Ways,” with drums played so loud by Eric Slick that you could feel them thumping in your chest.
Guitarist Scott McMicken and bassist Toby Leaman traded off on vocals, McMicken with a Wayne Coyne lilt to his decidedly-not-in-love-love songs (“I Only Wear Blue”), at one point so emphatically caught up in the act of rocking out that his hat fell off his head. The bluesy “Mirror, Mirror” twisted Snow White’s “who’s the fairest of them all?” refrain to an alt-rock swan song, as the crowd swayed to its laid-back groove, before being jolted by its fast-paced tempo change.
Dr. Dog couldn’t be pinned down, as the songs shifted from piano-stomp pop (“The Way The Lazy Do”) to lighters-up guitar jams (“The Beach”). And depending on what part of “Shadow People” he was playing, McMicken’s guitar solo either said “Early Built To Spill” or “monster truck rally,” as it escalated to its menacing, power-chord conclusion.
This is one band of mutts who aren’t afraid to howl it out in the junkyard — and they play with teeth bared and eyes closed.
Plus, they still know how to write a hit.
As an encore, Dr. Dog took the stage again for Shame, Shame‘s standout track “Jackie Wants A Black Eye,” a domestic abuse drama that would be disconcerting, if it weren’t so damn catchy. Turned into a clap-happy group singalong, thanks to toe-tapping percussion and a dopey ’60s vibe, McKicken and company chimed, “We’re in it together now, as we all fall apart.” Exactly.
My Old Ways
I Only Wear Blue
I Can’t Fly
The Way The Lazy Do
The Rabbit, The Rat and The Reindeer
Jackie Wants A Black Eye