"I live seven blocks from here!' Carl Newman made no bones about The Bell House being his favorite venue in the city, adding "I will only see bands here and can't imagine why I'd go to Manhattan again." Artist and venue are so chummy, the Bell House was Carl and his band's practice space for this show. "They said we could have whatever we wanted from the bar. This is when I realized that I was an adult. I didn't get wasted, I just had a couple gin and tonics and worked on the songs."
This convivial relationship made for such a relaxed atmosphere that the show, Newman's first solo show in 3 1/2 years, felt more like a party than anything else. And it was a good one. His band on Saturday, six-strong, included a violinist, a accordionist/trumpet player, and the lovely Nicole Atkins on backup vocals and percussion. I'm not sure that this is the official band that Newman will tour with next year once the album is out (surely Atkins won't be) but they seemed to have it together.
This was the first time most of us heard songs from his forthcoming second solo album, Get Guilty (out Jan. 20), of which we got seven from it and the same amount from 2004's excellent The Slow Wonder. The set started with the only song released yet from Get Guilty, "There are Maybe Ten or Twelve," which isn't quite the immediate pop number "Miracle Drug" (which followed) or "On the Table" were, but it's growing on me. Some of the other songs, including "Seven Ways to Stockholm" and a couple whose names I don't actually know (though I scribbled down chorus lyrics like "Yo Ho" and "Straight Shot) were the kind of zippy pop songs we're used to from Newman. The Slow Wonder was one of my favorites of 2004 so I have high hopes from the new one.
Newman came out solo for the encore and told us that he'd submitted two covers for an upcoming Starbucks' Valentines Day compilation. "The one they took was A Ha's "Take on Me," he said. "The other song, which I genuinely like, is this one" and he proceeded to play of The Go-Betweens' "Love Goes On!' from 1989's 16 Lovers Lane. The crowd applauded so much he did an impromptu second encore song, the New Pornographers' "The Fake Headlines" because they hadn't practiced any of his other solo songs.
SETLIST: There are Maybe Ten or Twelve* | Miracle Drug | Like a Hitman* | Secretarial | Seven Ways to Stockholm* | Come Crash | Heartbreak Rides* | Palace @ 4AM* | The Cloud Prayer | All My Days* | Drink to Me, Babe, Then | Changeling* | On the Table | The Town Halo | ENCORE: Love Goes On | The Fake Headlines
I got to the Bell House too late for openers Bird of Youth, but Baltimore's The Oranges Band were were solid indie rock '90s-style which makes sense as singer Roman Kuebler spent two years as Spoon's bassist and the band also features ex-Guided By Voices/Cobra Verde/My Dad is Dead guitarist Doug Gillard. The set also featured an appearance by Kuebler's dad who made a plea to the audience to check out the merch table where we could pick up The Oranges Band's forthcoming new record right now.
I really meant to buy that but I was too consumed with the idea of heading outside the club where one of the Red Hook Ballfield vendors had set up shop. I might have prefered tacos or hurraches, but the Ecuadorean pupusas dished up with vinegary slaw and a big dollop of crema were the perfect end of the evening. Delicious. Carl Newman was enjoying one too, and I almost asked him what kind he was eating, but decided not to bother him at his home away from home.