Rhett Miller: City Winery 23 March 2012

Both rtb and violaleeblue were having cranky days, so it was perfect that we were going to see our boyfriend Rhett that night. There isn’t a more perfect cure for crankiness. Joining us was rtb’s friend, who was a great fit in our little group.

I’ve mentioned City Winery before as one of our favorite venues. Great sightlines, sound, and a real kitchen with good food. Plus excellent wine, which is also a cure for crankiness. We got a taste of the Rhett Miller wine (a Cabernet Sauvignon) – the artist choses a wine, they slap his/her photo on it, and then City Winery sells bottles of it to the fans. The wine was okay. I thought the Rhett Miller wine he’d chosen last time was a better fit with his personality because it reminded me of whiskey.

Rhett came out to introduce Salim Nourallah. He told us that Nourallah sings very softly so we had to be quiet. This admonition was lost on most of the audience. His third song was “St. George,” which I thought he should have opened with. By the time he’d gotten to it, he’d lost most of the audience. Nourallah produced the Old 97’s Blame it on Gravity and The Grand Theatre, Volume 1 and Rhett’s self-titled album. Nourallah is a good match with Rhett. He’s from Texas and his facial features are similar to Rhett’s except the effect altogether is not as preternaturally beautiful as it is with Rhett. On Nourallah’s last song, “1978,” Rhett joined in. When Rhett covered one verse you could see and feel the major difference between the two – Rhett has a charisma that’s undeniable. Even though the lyrics weren’t strong (and what was with the 1960s ‘sha-la-las’ in a song about 1978?) when it was Rhett alone at the mic, you didn’t care. I enjoyed Nourallah but I don’t know if he has the presence to win over a crowd.

My feelings about Rhett Miller are already pretty clear. When he introduced Nourallah, and certainly by the time Rhett joined Nourallah on stage, Rhett’s ‘whoos’ indicated to us that he was already drunk so we did not know what kind of show we were going to get. During his set, two fans sent shots of whiskey to him so there was plenty of drinking on stage also. Because of the drinking he voice was shot before he started. He was forgetting lyrics. He didn’t talk a lot on stage, which is unusual, especially when he’s drunk, but he did promise a joke if he broke a string. When he finally did break a string late into the show the audience clamored for the joke and we got one – something about Cadillacs and getting lots of women with them. But dirtier and not as funny.

One of the amazing things is that no matter how drunk he gets he never misses a chord. And he plays very fast, which adds another level of amazement.

We heard songs from his upcoming new album that will be released in June. The new album was paid for by fans and has already reached 164% of the goal. We also heard covers including a Tom Petty song he had to learn for his appearance on Wits on NPR.

For “Firefly” Rhett asked if anyone felt that they could do the female part of the duet. Lots of women raised their hands and called out to him but he decided it would be safer to sing the song himself. As he was explaining how he’d face one way for the male part and the other way for the female part, a group of people in front of us stood and shouted that their friend could definitely sing the song with him. Rhett took a chance and won. Misty was very good. She was comfortable on stage and knew all the lyrics. I gave her lots of props for having the balls to do it – it’s a dream of mine but, even if I could remember all the lyrics, I’d be too scared to stand next to Rhett and sing. Misty’s only fault was that she sang lead even when singing together with Rhett. She reduced Rhett to a back-up singer. My feeling was that she is a ‘real’ singer (she was that good) but is not a seasoned performer or maybe only sings karaoke and she was too busy showing off to know when to pull back and relate to the other person on stage and to relate to the song. But, again, big props for even attempting to sing with Rhett.

My one complaint about Rhett is that his hair is too long and his bangs covered up his eyes for too much of the show. We want to see your eyes, Rhett!


Set list

  • A State of Texas
  • My Valentine
  • The El
  • Buick City Complex
  • New song “when you leave I’ll be sad”
  • No Baby I
  • Champaign, Illinois
  • You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (Dylan cover)
  • New song “Marina”
  • Big Brown Eyes
  • Nobody Says I Love You Anymore
  • Melt Show
  • Let the Whiskey Take the Reins
  • Firefly
  • New song “I’m only happy when I’m singing a sad song”
  • Nineteen
  • Barrier Reef (alternate version)
  • New song “don’t mind me I’m just sleepwalking”
  • Cryin’ Drunk
  • No Simple Machine
  • Every Night is Friday Night (Without You)
  • Our Love
  • Encore

  • Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)
  • Come Around
  • Timebomb
  • After I wrote this review I found a video of Mystie singing with Rhett (taken by her boyfriend) and it appears she is a ‘real’ singer:

    By Carene Lydia Lopez