Okkervil River: Bowery Ballroom 21 November 2015

This was a show I was really looking forward to – my favorite indie band performing one of my favorite albums of theirs and playing in my favorite club. Black Sheep Boy is a concept album based on Tim Hardin’s song of the same name. That album is what put Okkervil River on the map. rtb and I got tickets for the first night. Okkervil River sold out two nights and added a third night.

As always, Kenny got us a table so when I ran into him upstairs I stopped to talk with him and didn’t worry about getting to my table. rtb joined us and we had a fun conversation on what has been going on in Kenny’s life. When rtb and I went to find our table we were confused. There was no table with my name on it. My guess? Someone took my name off one of the tables. On the other side of the balcony was the VIP section reserved for Okkervil friends and family only. One table was unmarked so we sat there (with Kenny’s blessing) and lucky for us no one came to check to see if we had VIP badges. They weren’t the best seats (I had to stand in order to see the stage) but we were lucky to be out of the push and pull of the sold-out crowd.

Will Sheff (lead singer/guitar/harmonica) came out and did a solo set. He explained that these songs were sort of a lead-in into Black Sheep Boy as they were written at the same time but meant to be solo songs. After about three or four songs the rest of the band joined him. Sheff did introduce the band but I didn’t get all the names – some are long-time members and others are newer members. I can’t find a list of the current line-up that I trust to be correct. One delightful surprise was the guest appearance of Jonathan Meiburg, who left the band some time ago to form Shearwater. All of the members are fantastic performers but there needs to be a special shout-out to the drummer who Sheff said is the best rock and roll drummer. I would say he is one of the best I’ve ever heard and he had me dancing most of the night.

Sheff wanted to perform a faithful reproduction of the album and he succeeded. We heard every note and sound effect found on the album but made better by the live energy. Sheff loves performing and the energy and love he gives to the audience and returned in kind. Sometimes, when I was sitting, I just closed my eyes and let the word imagery and music wash over me. In addition to the album the band performed the EP Black Sheep Boy Appendix and B-sides from the same time period.

For Sheff, the audience feeds the performers and become part of the show. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this 10th anniversary tour.

By Carene Lydia Lopez