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June 21, 2008

In which I got to see the Seventy Sevens

I went to a concert Friday night. I got to see my favorite band of all time, the Seventy Sevens. I must have known the concert was coming up, but I suppose it never really registered with me, since I got an e-mail Friday from their mailing list with a show reminder and it was a total surprise. I decided I really wanted to go. Darlene couldn't go because there wasn't time to round up a babysitter, so she kindly allowed me to go by myself while she stayed home with the girls. Thank you, my love. You are a truly beautiful woman.

The Seventy Sevens are, I believe, the finest band out there that no one has heard of. They have been around in one incarnation or another since the late 1970's. Their first album came out in 1982, and the current lineup has been in place since Tom Tom Blues in 1995. I was introduced to their music in 1993-94, just before Drowning With Land In Sight came out.

Michael Roe is the primary singer/songwriter/guitar wizard. He also plays lead guitar in the folk/gospel group the Lost Dogs. The man has serious chops and he showed them off to great effect Friday night. David Leonhardt used to be in the band and still handles rhythm guitar duties on the road from time to time (he did so Friday), and the rhythm section is comprised of the incomparable Mark Harmon (bass) and Bruce Spencer (drums). They put on an incredible show.

They played in Marietta, at the Three Bears Cafe. It was a nice little venue. There was a bar and tables on the floor, and a couple of rows of tables and some random chairs in the balcony. I would guess there were around two hundred people in attendance. I sat in the balcony, in a chair in the very back, so I had a good view over everyone else's head.

June 20 was the release date for the Sevens' new CD, Holy Ghost Building, and they debuted seven songs off the new CD during the set. I bought the CD at the show but haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. If the concert was any indication, though, I'll love it, and so will my wife. It appears to be a collection of older, traditional gospel tunes. The show was very bluesy, featuring several long, jammy numbers. They dipped into their new wave origins in the encores before closing with a tune off the new CD. The set list was as follows:

1. "Self Made Trap" (from The Seventy Sevens, 1992)
2. "Dave's Blues" (from Drowning With Land In Sight, 1994)
3. "I'll Remember You, Love, In My Prayers" (from the new CD)
4. "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning" (from the new CD)
5. "I'm Working On A Building" (from the new CD)
6. "Stranger Won't You Change Your Sinful Ways" (from the new CD)
7. "You're Gonna Be Sorry" (from the new CD)
8. "I'm Gonna Run To The City Of Refuge" (from the new CD)
9. "The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes & The Pride Of Life" (from The 77's, 1986)

1. "Someone New" (from Ping Pong Over The Abyss, 1982)
2. "Ba Ba Ba Ba" (from All Fall Down, 1984)
3. "He's A Mighty Good Leader" (from the new CD)

77's Tour Poster.  Image ganked straight from their myspace page.  Hope they don't mind me putting it on here.

The show opened with an introduction in Mike's trademark dry humor: "Please welcome the best band on this stage at this moment, the Seventy Sevens!" Mike also brought out the humor when, while pausing to tune his guitar at one point, he told the audience, "If you come to Hendersonville, TN tomorrow night you'll see this exact same concert, only better rehearsed."

The opener was a long, winding, ten minute jam that really set the tone for the night. A couple of the songs included quotes from other songs inserted into instrumental breaks, Zeppelin-style. "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning" segued into "Riders On The Storm" by the Doors, and "I'm Working On A Building" quoted the Sevens' own "Perfect Blues". Before playing the final song, a reverent reading of "He's A Mighty Good Leader", Mike told us that they were going to close it with one that would remind us what it's all about. No humor in that, just belief expressed through music. It was a moving way to end the show.

I saw the Seventy Sevens in 1997, the Lost Dogs in 2002, and now the Sevens again in 2008. All three shows will stay with me for different reasons. I'm glad to say I've gotten to see these amazing artists at different stages in their careers. The show in '97 was completely different from the show Friday night in the way it sounded and felt. It's almost like I've seen two different bands, which to me, is really cool. It's a testament, I think, to their talent, that they've covered so much stylistic ground in their history--from new wave to R.E.M.-style jangle pop to anthemic rock to blues to gospel, they've done so many things so many different ways.

Even beyond the Seventy Sevens, Mike Roe's personal body of work is immense and so eclectic that it's hard to believe the same guy has appeared on all of it. He has put out acoustic solo albums that are achingly beautiful and fragile, and his work with the Lost Dogs is completely different again, veering more towards country and rootsy folk and down-home gospel. He and Mark Harmon have even collaborated on some jazzy instrumental stuff that is unlike anything else the Sevens have done.

I'd like to thank my wife again for giving me the chance to go to the concert, and I'd like to thank Mike, Bruce, Mark, and Dave for putting on a fantastic show and for so many years of great music.


Mike Beidler said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the concert! I know you'll enjoy the album. Two years in the making, but it's been worth the wait.

Mike and I have been throwing around ideas for his next solo album and one particular tune is guaranteed to blow you away in terms of origin, both lyrically and musically.

Thanks for supporting the band and their music. And be sure to buy more CDs for family and friends ... Christmas is just around the corner. ;-)

Stephen Mark Sarro said...

Hey thanks for sharing with us, that awesome concert review. I am bummed I couldn't see the 7s latest tour. Im excited to hear they played some of those old numbers. For the record, Pray Naked is my fave too.
Its hard to say one though, i mean Sticks and stones and DWLIS are all so freaking good too.

Long live the 77s!!

take care

- S