Reviews > Shows
Dr. Dog, Lee’s Palace, Toronto, ON – 4/14
Photo by Max Zuppinger
For a band with a stupid name, Dr. Dog sure is smart. The Philadelphia quintet clearly understands that a meaningful musical experience begins with great songs, and 2010’s Shame, Shame is a logical and wholly enjoyable extension of this ethos. Writing choice tunes with irresistible melodies and hooks is a trend the group has held fast to over the course of six progressively better albums and, like any truly fantastic act, their live performances blow their already impressive recordings out of the water. The perennial road warriors dropped anchor in Toronto and coolly continued their rise.
The most noticeable recent update to the bands live show, aside from the slew of new material, is the lighting. Instead of relying on the standard venue rig, a small collection of LED units transform a standard rock club into a much more interesting space. As is the case with all things Dog, simplicity is king, and the lighting cues require little intricacy to achieve effect. Along with increasing the quality of the music, it’s encouraging to see growth in regard to concert production.
Lee’s Palace would be treated to a superbly produced and executed concert, as Dr. Dog trotted out all but one of the tracks from Shame, Shame as well as the bulk of 2008’s seminal Fate LP. Switching focus back and forth between its two frontmen, bassist Toby Leaman and guitarist Scott McMicken, the band emanated unflinching cohesion throughout the 21-song set as each singer enhanced the timeless nature of the music with distinct traits. McMicken conveyed whimsical tales of the lovelorn with his childlike delivery, while Leamans sentimental blue-collar growl spurted scalding peaks of soulful elation.
Rhythm guitarist Frank McElroy, a late-2005 addition, is the secret weapon on stage. Unassuming as he appears in flannel and shades, it’s his contributions to many of the 3-part harmonies that moor the group vocals. Keyboardist Zach Miller and drummer Eric Slick supply staunch backing, while bringing a ragtime feel to much of the material with their jaunty styles. Dr. Dog may be an example of a sum greater than its parts, but each part is undeniably vital.
Standouts from the new record included ‘Where’d All The Time Go’ and ‘Jackie Wants A Black Eye’, both of which offered a taste of McMicken’s direct tone. Leaman shone with the stripped -down psychedelia of “Someday’ and the theatrical lament of ‘Later’. The crowd faithfully belted out Fate favorites ‘The Breeze’ and Hang On’, and stood in awe of the raw emotion pouring from the speakers during ‘Army of Ancients’ and ‘The Ark’. After years of grinding it out on tour, the reception in Toronto indicated that Dr. Dog had certainly arrived. With their hearts unabashedly on their sleeves, these five accomplices have tapped in to something pure and powerful. In light of their unrelenting ascent, this just might be the decade of the dog.
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