As the lights went down and beams of blue light hit a white silk screen covering the background, I started to consider the magnitude of what I was about to experience. I had seen the Silver Jews once before at the Pitchfork Music Festival, but being fifty rows back carries zero amount of intimacy. Now I’m three people back with a two hundred person crowd. I started to search my mind for the last time I had seen a band that was in my legends of music section…no, not Beatles classic, but MY legends like Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Jeff Magnum, and Thom York. David Berman and the Silver Jews were on that list and seeing them up close, hearing the songs I’ve spun a million times…just trying to mentally prepare felt surreal. This is what loving music is all about.
A tall shadow appeared stage left and glided to the center microphone. The classic unkempt beard, thinning hairline, and oversized glasses acted as trademarks to point out the already know…there is King Berman. Without saying a word to the crowd he slowly spun with a smile and the band kicked into American Water classic track, Smith and Jones. He slowed down the song; making each word he spoke clear and crisp, allowing the viewer to take apart the meaning of a song fans have heard over and over. He slowly made his way around the stage, flirting with his beautiful wife Cassie, and looking at various band mates with a hand on his chin…the image of a professor grading the performance of his students. The song ended and everyone in the place knew that the next hour would be special…and it was.
The night didn’t go without it’s normal live show missteps…the drummer starting the wrong song and Berman’s microphone xlr cable falling out twice. After the microphone went out once, he stopped and looked at the crowd and said “And they ask me why I don’t play live.”
There was a beautiful mix of songs from the Dime of the Reef 7” to stuff from the new album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea”. If a complaint had to be cast it would be that American Water tracks just don’t sound the same without Malkmus on the guitar. Hearing the classic solo at the end of Random Rules just reminded me that something wasn’t quite right with this spectacle. That aside, seeing the Silver Jews in a non-festival setting was a monumental moment in my life and reminded me why I spend so many hours playing records…to find something as special as the Silver Jews.