“Why are you guys so quiet out there?” Stan Ridgway greeted the crowd at the Saxon Pub Tuesday night. “Wake the fuck up!”
The former Wall of Voodoo lead singer with his signature nasal, almost electric twang led his band (wife Pietra Wexstun on keyboards and electronics, Rick King on guitar) though the entire, newly-released Neon Mirage record before a “cavalcade of hits” – joking every step of the way.
Much of the comedy came through quips about the club’s co-founder Joe Abels, the large Saxon armor outside and playful jokes with sound man Richard Vannoy.
Of course, ample (and sometimes over-the-top) use of the synthesizer made for several humorous moments as well, providing atmosphere for a few off the cuff monologues, including one about camping on Joe Abel’s lawn in Pflugerville (see video).
Any timing goofs, especially with the backing tracks provided via laptop, were blamed on the show being the third date of the tour, with the addition of “We’ll get it right by the time we get to Germany.”
The album features both Dave Alvin and Austinite Amy Farris, who passed away last year. A dedication to Amy before the reflective “Halfway There” garnered a special applause.
“Wandering Star,” a song influenced by the “new” Nashville sound, back when new meant Patsy Cline and Owen Bradley and Dylan’s “Lenny Bruce” (“about multiple subjects, as anyone who takes a trip to Planet Bob knows”).
As the band segued into the “hits” section of the evening, Stan joked that we had made it, albeit some scraped knees. “Lonely Town,” “Call of the West” and “Ring of Fire” followed, with a leisurely stroll through the audience – during which Pietra kept the guitar sounds running, while Stan put on a good show of air guitar.
Unfortunately, the crowd was either actually asleep or on their way to dreamland when the band left the stage. Scattered applause was eventually fortified by some hoots and hollers as the side door opened and a cigarette-smoking Stan emerged. A few moments of discussion about smoking bans ensued before launching into “a song that’s been following me around,” “Camouflage.”
As Stan had said before “Neon Mirage,” the show was about the weird and wonderful journey – not the destination.
Photos by Nichole Wagner