'The Next Great American Band' lives up to its name

Iandickson_nextgreatamericanband_24 I don't tend to expect much great music from reality shows like The Next Great American Band or American Idol or all the rest. On a good night, I figure, there will be some decent -- or at least not painful -- music. On a bad night, well, at least I get to point and laugh. But tonight, I got something spine tingling, something thrilling, something real and alive and amazing. I feel like I need a cigarette. I'm spent.

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a woman of spoilers and taste.

Our ousted band this week was Cliff Wagner and the Old #7. I'm not surprised -- they were good, but in a genial, back-porch sort of way. I liked their music, but I won't miss them. I wish them well, but I didn't want them to win.

With them gone, we're getting to the point where I don't actively dislike any of the bands. I wouldn't hate it if any of them won. But one band completely dominated tonight, putting out a performance that would stand up anywhere: The Clark Brothers. Holy crap, they were incredible. They played Gimme Shelter, which is a good rock-out song that you don't immediately think would suit a three-piece, drummerless gospel-influenced band. But oh my god, people, it was incredible. They turned that song into a spine-tingler with tension that built and built until you could hardly stand it, and then broke over you in waves. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I'm keeping this episode on my TiFaux just for that performance. The guys were amazing. Forget being a best-selling band, I could see these guys heading up a cult. Fantastic.

Having that performance stuck in my head makes it hard to write about the other bands. They were all good, and fun, and decent performers, but the Clark Brothers? They were on a higher plane of existence. Wow.

ANYway. On to the rest.

Tres Bien! opens the show with "Get Off of My Cloud" (and I can't help but think of the sheep joke when I hear that song), and they're fine. They monkey with the rhythm a bit -- someone with music training tell us in the comments the technical term for the stop-start beat they used -- and threw the a riff from Satisfaction, then a gratuitous key change. They should have picked just one, maybe two, or those embellishments. As it is, I have to agree with John that it sounded a bit like a Broadway tribute thing.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra introduces themselves as D&MHO, which I think I will adopt from now on as it's easier to type. It also signifies them moving away slightly from the straight big-band sound. They again do the 70s Steely Dan type funk, and again I like it a lot. The fact that they choose a song -- "I'm Free" -- that basically flips a bird to the judges is just gravy. They get conflicting advise from the judges: John wants them to get dirtier, while Dicko wants them to stick to their original brief. Oh well -- at least Sheila likes them.

Sixwire does a really good cover of "The Last Time," rocking it out more than usual. I'd gush but the Clark Brothers captured all of my squeeage this week. Dicko praises them for being more masculine this week, which Andy immediately torpedoes by blowing Dicko a kiss. Hee!

Light of Doom does "Jumpin' Jack Flash" relatively straight-up, and again, they rock out. It's a little low for Erik, but he's still got a really compelling voice. If only someone else had added their voice as well -- I agree with the judges that it could have used some harmony.

Dot Dot Dot closes out the show, and I'm glad they got through. They perform "Let's Spend the Night Together," and again, I just really, really like this band. Rose is a phenomenal guitar player, and I like Adam's manic energy. However, I can sort of see what Dicko means when he tells Adam there's a fine line between commanding attention and being desperate for attention, and Adam may fall to the desperate side. I still love them.

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends:

  • Honest to god, The Clark Brothers blew me away. The judges agreed, giving the guys a standing ovation. And Dicko is worth quoting at length: "I don't mind telling you that I'm not terribly religious, but I pray that you're going to come on stage." Dicko said he was worried about an acoustic trio playing "one of the Stones' most belligerent songs,"  but they did it exactly right: "You started with folky, psychedelic trippy sound and built the tension, and yet again you turned it into blind panic. I had goosebumps, and it can't all be the male menopause. It was sensation, absolutely thrilling, fantastic." Damn straight.
  • Sheila says The Clark Brothers are the band to beat. I'd be thrilled, except look what happened to the last band she said that about...
  • And to top it off, Austin was playing an awesome Flying V Dobro. (Or resonator guitar -- a guitar geek will have to confirm or deny.)
  • When John comments that Tres Bien!'s interpretation was a little Broadway, he threw in some jazz hands. I think I may love him for that.
  • Sheila commented that the guitar was a bit out of tune for Tres Bien! - and she gets booed. She's incensed: "You're going to boo me?" Dicko comforts her: "You'll feel dirty at first, but you'll get over it. You'll learn to love the boos like I have. In more than one way." Heh.
  • John wanted to know why D&MHO didn't do something with some edge, like "Bitch," Sheila is again incensed -- "What? This is a family show! There's no cursing!" Did she seriously used to hang out with Prince?
  • John on Light of Doom: "You guys rock so hard. You little punks are killing me." I'm starting to love John.
  • Dicko describing Light of Doom's usual style: "Normally you do straight-ahead rock that sounds like you're about to invade Poland." He also advises the boys to study up on the Stones - "And all that stuff Keith did? Don't do that."
  • In the interstitial bits, we learn "surprising" facts about members of the bands. Denver and Andy from Sixwire do impressions; Lisa from Dot Dot Dot used to be a champion mountain bike racer; Cody from Tres Bien! has a titanium jaw. But my favorite reveals were about the kids from Light of Doom: Erik says Mitchell, the drummer, "plays army in his back yard. In a fort. With no girls allowed." Finally, evidence that these kids are actually kids!

Next week, the final five play Rod Stewart covers. Stick to the early stuff, please!