BY TIM HINELY
Denver is (in)famous for having these big old, crumbling theatres that are music venues and The Oriental, in the now hip Highlands neighborhoods is no exception. I had only ever been here once before, for an Agent Orange show last year and I like the place so was excited to come back (Nov. 25).
Having missed opener The Howling Hex (Neil Hagerty’s band, he late of Royal Trux), I was bummed as I really wanted to see them, but I hear they/he now lives in Denver so hopefully more opportunities will come up.
I can’t remember the last time I saw Bill Callahan/Smog but it had to be in the ‘90s (he was also the first show I ever booked, in January 1994 at Café This in Santa Rosa, CA). Callahan hit the stage early, 9 PM sharp (yes!!) and had a guitarist and bassist, both sitting down in chairs and a drummer who played the bongo most of the night (while Callahan himself wasn’t afraid to strap on the harmonica for several songs, either) . They opened with a rambling version of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” and afterwards Callahan dedicated it to Lou Reed who “we will all miss very much.” He also played “Too Many Birds” from 2009’s terrific Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle and “America” from 2011’s Apocalypse and a few songs from his latest, Dream River.
It’s nice to see after so many years that Callahan is still a challenging (and unique) songwriter, willing to take chances where many other songwriters would not. The packed house at the Oriental certainly appreciated it and gave them the respect they deserve when he mentioned it was the last show on the tour.
[Photo borrowed from Bill Callahan Facebook page… zzzzzz…..]