That kind of pretty

Elvis Perkins, Great Scott, February 27, 2007
By ELLEE DEAN  |  February 28, 2007

The real Elvis Perkins

I hop a curb, and — in the middle of Comm Ave — introduce myself to Elvis Perkins before his show last night at Great Scott. He looks just like his picture, pale-skinned and skinny in his velour jacket, and one of his shoes is duck taped together. We shake hands, and the folk-rock singer dips his into mine like a girl offering her hand for a kiss. Brigham Brough and Wyndham Boylan-Garnett — members Elvis’s band — shake hands with me, too. Their handshakes are fine. But the star sighting is an awkward one at best. So, I bid them a good show and run for the club.

Inside, Patrick Watson opens for Elvis with songs that sound like Wyatt Earp — a sheet of metal howls like wind through plains in “The Storm.” Montrealer Watson plays a balloon that squeals and shudders, too. But it’s when the band jumps stage and plays their last song acoustic from the middle of the bar — Watson stands on a chair beneath the Elvis busts and lava lamps — that they make their fans in Boston.

And then the real Elvis Perkins takes the stage. He takes a long draw from his harmonica. The room is all of a sudden loud. Elvis’s “S”s are thick and his tongue whistles a little. The crowd turns tight-lipped, their heads bobbing to the murmur of Brough’s bass; we feel it through the floor. Elvis responds with poemy lyrics, and Nicolas Kinsey, wearing his drum, dances madly behind his lead singer. Kinsey’s ski hat wobbles as he booms his drum. It’s good, really all good.

A couple of songs in, it’s “Emile’s Vietnam in the Sky,” and Elvis sings in staccato French. There’s nothing cheesy about it — just lyrical stuff now. And, though some of the songwriter’s poetry tastes too much for pop, behind his circular glasses, he asks the crowd “Do you ever wonder where you go when you die?” — and it’s a simple question.

Elvis ends with “While You Were Sleeping” — picked up by TheOC in Season Four — and those fans that know him know the line “I made a death suit for life/For my father’s ill-widowed wife.” And fans know that Elvis knows what it means. So, they ask for an encore and Elvis sings “One, Two, Three, Goodbye,” which draws the girls close to the stage like Beatles’ groupies used to do.

Mikael Wood wrote that Perkin’s album is “one of the prettiest bummers around.” Turns out in a crowded bar he can be pretty upbeat. Simon Cowell might remark on Elvis’s total lack of sex appeal — and though he shakes hands like a princess, there’s some tension in the room when the set is done, because the music was that kind of pretty.

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