You can tell you’re in for an interesting evening when you settle into a historic rock ’n’roll venue such as The Stone Pony and you’re being treated to selections from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. That’s the kind of path Deer Tick has chosen to take fans down on its current tour.
If the delightful kiddie tunes didn’t indicate that this was the framework for an inside-out show, then the opening song choice of “Let’s All Go to the Bar” surely cemented it. The Stone Pony crowd caught on quickly and got right into encore mode by shouting and bouncing along to singer John McCauley’s raspy delivery. Deer Tick followed up that party anthem fairly quickly with another track from 2011’s superb Divine Providence, the equally rowdy “The Bump.” It’s a true crowd-participation piece, and by the end, the band and the crowd were extremely loose.
With a captive audience settled in, the band liberally peppered its set with about five or six new tracks from its forthcoming album, Negativity, which is set for a September release. The best of the bunch was “The Dream Is in the Ditch,” a bouncy, jangly tune sung by guitarist Ian O’Neil; the other new songs varied in appeal but ultimately served as speed bumps between better-known material.
And that older material still elicits strong crowd response: “Baltimore Blues No. 1” prompted a good amount of swaying hands, while “Ashamed” remains a favorite shout-along despite McCauley’s constant tempo rearrangement. “Spend the Night,” a song from the band’s debut album, War Elephant, seemed to take the majority by surprise and also lead to some nifty old-school twist moves in the open parts of the floor.
Never the type of band to shy away from a choice cover song, Deer Tick delivered a spot-on version of Warren Zevon’s classic “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” Major kudos go to keyboardist Rob Crowell for cranking up some fine organ flourishes throughout the song.
The one-hour and 40-minute set came to a close with the grungy guitar blitz of “Walls” from last year’s EP, Tim, with lots of feedback and an extended drum workout bringing the show to an appropriate end. While the night started with the bright and sunny Disney sounds, it concluded with muffled lyrics, screeching guitars and crashing cymbals — a fitting finale to a fine inside-out show.
— By Mike Madden