In support of their new album, “Oooh La La!,” the Crash Test Dummies arrived safely at The Linda in Albany for the third stop on their tour. The previous shows in Ithaca and Niagara Falls found the band trudging through what has been reported as several feet of snow – with part of the NYS Thruway being closed for a couple of days south of Buffalo. They may want to rethink their tour routing; I hear Miami is nice this time of year.
First up on Saturday night was local musician “Lonesome Val” Haynes, along with fellow Fear Of Strangers alumnus Todd Nelson. Stepping back on stage after a long hiatus out of the spotlight, Haynes’ half-hour set was a very nice, but too brief start to the night. The duo’s stripped down sound – just one Nelson’s guitar accompanying Haynes’ vocals – dovetailed nicely with CTD, who also employed only one guitar.
It was apparent that the addition of Val to the bill was very likely the boost that pushed attendance at the show to the standing-room-only, sold-out level. Although I had never seen her former outfits, the Units or Fear Of Strangers, I have caught her as a frequent guest performer with Ramblin Jug Stompers at their regular third Monday of the month residencies first at Tess’ Lark Tavern and now at McGeary’s. Her personal style shows that she really loves the material, whether a cover or an original, my favorite being “Running Between the Raindrops.” The reunion performance of Haynes and Nelson made it obvious that it should be repeated in the near future.
Following the brief intermission, guitarist James Reid got himself comfortable, and CTD lead singer Brad Roberts soon arrived on stage to start their show with “God Shuffled His Feet.” Being backed by a lone guitar brought a completely different feel to the songs, as the lyrics became much more noticeable as the focal points they should be. Soon after they began, they were joined on stage by the third member of the band, long-time Crash Test Dummies singer, Ellen Reid.
Throughout the night, the trio drifted in and out between old favorites and songs from their new CD. The crowd seemed to enjoy the new stuff almost as much as the hits. My only complaint was that they didn’t recreate the sound of the new CD, where the tracks were crafted over and around toy – yes toy – instruments. I guess that would have been too difficult to pull off with only three people.
While Roberts was front and center for most of the night, he left the stage for a few songs during the evening, so that Ellen could have her turn in the spotlight for solo renditions of XTC’s “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkin Head” (which CTD recorded for the soundtrack of “Dumb and Dumber”) and “Put A Face” from the new album. Moving over to the centerstage microphone, she had a very nice voice, but the higher pitch and sharper edge of her voice seemed to give the soundman some trouble, and the first song was almost painful in places. This was ironed out later in the evening and, since this was still early in the tour, hopefully, will get better.
Throughout the hour-and-a-half-long set, Roberts kept up an easy and humorous dialogue with the audience, including a few barbs aimed at some hecklers, although his favorite target appeared to be several women in the front row with lollipops. The set was closed out with a very soulful rendering of “Superman’s Song.”
As we all know, the encore has become as much a part of the show as the original set (I wonder what a band would do if no one clapped after they said goodnight?), and Roberts acknowledged it when he mused, “What songs would we play?” He led off the encore mini-set off with a minor-key rendition of “Jingle Bells” that sounded more like a Russian folk song. After “What I’m Famous For,” inspired by a rent dispute with his landlord, he again left the stage to Ellen for “You’re Early,” a haunting song from her 2001 solo CD, “Cinderellen.” The evening ended with CTD big hit, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” with Roberts admitting that he originally hummed the chorus because he couldn’t come up with any lyrics.
It was great to see such a huge crowd at The Linda. Chairs were set up throughout the hall wherever space could be found – and all of them were filled. More than a few people lined the walls and stood by the door. Hopefully, more shows can get this kind of response.
Review by Ed Conway
Photographs of Crash Test Dummies by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
CRASH TEST DUMMIES SET LIST
God Shuffled His Feet
And It’s Beautiful
Swimming in Your Ocean
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead (XTC)
Just Shoot Me, Baby
Put a Face
Two Knights and Maidens
Not Today Baby
Afternoons & Coffeespoons
You Said You’d Meet Me (In California)
What I’m Famous For
Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm
LONESOME VAL SET LIST
Love Comes to Town
Truth Is Like a Dirty Word
Running Between the Raindrops
To Be Young
He Never Gives Up