Wednesday, April 3, 2013

ThisSmallPlanet Review: Christopher Owens, Star Theater, Portland, March 30, 2013

Anticipation (and anxiety) has been high among fans of Christopher Owens recently as he broke up his band Girls to embark on a new career as a solo artist.

He played Portland on Saturday with a eight-piece band (guitar, bass, keys, drum, a flute/sax player, two singers and Owens himself singing and playing guitar).

The set consisted of the new solo album, with several covers as encores, and the surprise inclusion of a Girls song "My Ma".

We had heard that there would be no Girls songs on this tour - only the new album and the covers, so it was good to hear some of his earlier material.

We hope that he will play other songs from his songbook going forward, as he has some excellent ones and why shouldn't he play them? He wrote them, and many people have deep connections to his previously released material.

Still, it was clear the artist wanted to signal that he is starting on a new musical path, and so the focus would be on the new material.

The new album "Lysandre" is good - and even better live - but some fans have noted it lacks a longer scorcher like "Hellhole Ratrace" or "Vomit", or a insta-pop classic like "Lust for Life".

True fans will take the debut solo album for what it is - a song cycle about a singular event - a self-contained piece - and are confident Christopher is quite capable of writing future classics like the songs we know and love from the Girls albums (the LP "Album", EP "Broken Dream Club" and LP "Father Son Holy Ghost"). And hopefully he won't be shy about doing those earlier classics too at future appearances.

There was one song I didn't recognize, which may be a new one.

The covers were interesting, apparently some of the same ones he used to play as a kid when he was busking in places like Slovenia for the cult he grew up in. I heard he was doing Paul Simon's "The Boxer" and Cat Stevens "It's a Wild World", and they were cool, but it was great to also hear the Dylan cover "Don't Think Twice" and a Dylanesque version of "Let It Be Me".

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