Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders, Troubadour, April 20, 2010
You get past the whole singing drummer thing—a setup that normally conjures the worst rock has to offer, namely, Don Henley & Phil Collins—pretty fast with Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders. From their self-deprecating name on down, they are rooted in a down to earth humility and earnestness that it’s hard not to pull for them. These are just some dudes in T-shirts and sneakers going to play some energetic late 70’s AOR-inspired arena rock tunes in a comfy club show setting. Just coincidentally the singer-songwriter also plays drums in the biggest or second biggest rock band in the world.
Ringing in the release of a new album, Red Light Fever, this past Tuesday at the Troubadour, TH & TCR take the stage to dry ice, bright lights and an arty guitar drone—Taylor later joking about stealing that last one from Styx—they proceed to pound out a tight 90-minute set. It’s clear that Taylor and the guys—Chris Chaney (also of Panic Channel) on bass, Gannin Arnold on lead guitar & Nate Wood on rhythm guitar—are finding the new tunes fresh to work out live and they look like they’re having fun, finding the pockets where they can stretch it out. Taylor admits aloud he’s working on his between song banter but he wins with this line: “Happy to be here at the Troubadour. Where The Eagles played. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
The live dynamics tend towards the heavy since understandably they have to leave out many of the texture touches of the produced recordings—acoustic guitar, keyboards, Queen-like falsettos vocals—just out of the economy of being a four-piece, but it works. The tunes twist and turn and have restless snakey structures and odd time signatures, maybe four bars in 5 here, then four bars double time there, two quick bars here. It’s obvious a creative drummer arranged these, no simple 4/4 backbeat here. A try at bringing on a couple of ladies for backing vocals for a couple of numbers is maybe the only misfire of the night.
Standouts live are the first single “Way Down,” sounding something like Gary Glitter by way of Queens of the Stone Age, “It’s Over,” with a Bonzo “Moby Dick”-like intro giving way to showers of guitar noise, and “Never Enough,” a slowburner that builds up and drifts away nicely. “Drive Me Insane” from the 2006 album gets a particularly fiery run through. The encore has them bring out Eliot Easton of The Cars to cover that band’s “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.” And then, finally, as was collectively hoped for by the crowd, Dave Grohl emerges to jump on drums to back his fellow Foo man on the final two songs. A nice, big brotherly touch. The real love between these guys who have gone through a lot together is visible.
While all the TC & TCR references might be retro, looking over their shoulder at the 70’s—from the musical inspiration to the artwork (complete with a cheeky vinyl record wear ring on the brand new CD cover), to the desertscape backdrop, to, heck, even Taylor’s mustache is from another era—it all sort of comes together and feels right and, most importantly, there’s not any real irony about it all. That’s a good thing and too rare.
Taylor Hawkins | taylorhawkins.com
Photo from the San Diego Casbah show from CapturedSouls flickr.