Listening to Nixon for the first time in over a decade as I travel to Dublin, it dawns on me that, while I had always considered Lambchop to be rooted in American folk and country music, songs like ‘You Masculine You’ and ‘Up With People’ seem to be as steeped in the tradition of American soul and gospel as anything else. It all makes a whole lot more sense when, having performed their defining work in full, the band drop into the heavy groove of Curtis Mayfield’s classic funk track ‘Give Me Your Love’, with Kurt Wagner’s fragile voice echoing the staccatoed falsetto of Mayfield’s original recording. By this time the band are in full swing and an enthusiastic audience at the National Concert Hall is lapping up the soulful vibes, but the evening doesn’t start out quite so well.
After Adrian Crowley’s less than engaging support slot, an almost full house at the NCH are eagerly awaiting the performance of Lambchop’s critically acclaimed album 15 years after its first release on City Slang. As the band strike up the first chords of ‘The Old Gold Shoe’ there are immediate issues with the sound, with Wagner’s voice is barely audible, while his guitar is completely absent from the mix. The problem is only addressed when a member of the audience shouts “we can’t hear your guitar Kurt”, while another echoes the sentiment with “the sound is fucking awful”.
Once firing on all cylinders, the most notable change from the studio recording is the absence of a string section. Tonight they are replaced by saxophone, trumpet, flute, and clarinet (all performed by one musician) and, while it loses some of the lushness of the album version, it’s a pretty damn good effort. The Nashville group play out the rest of Nixon, but they don’t stop for very long here before declaring that they “owe [us] a few more tunes”, surprising us with that bit of aforementioned funk and a few other gems such as ‘My Face Your Ass’ and ‘We Never Argue’ before closing with an encore of David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’. An experience probably never to be repeated but one that had the heart ripped out of it for much of the night.