Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cracker at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill

David Lowery
When the quirky alternative country rock band Camper Van Beethoven disbanded in 1990, vocalist/guitarist David Lowery began developing songs with his childhood friend, guitarist Johnny Hickman, in Richmond, Virginia. They recruited area musicians to form a more guitar-driven roots rock and country rock band with oddball lyrics, and chose the name Cracker by 1991. In 1992 Cracker issued a self-titled album, which featured the radio novelties "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" and "Happy Birthday to Me." A year later, Cracker's platinum-selling 1993 album, Kerosene Hat, included the hit songs "Low", "Euro-Trash Girl" and "Get Off This," as well as a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Loser." The band has released 10 studio albums. The band's newest studio album, the double Berkeley to Bakersfield, was released December 9, 2014; Berkeley is the rock disc, and Bakersfield is the country disc. Camper Van Beethoven reformed in 1999 and opens for Cracker on tour; Lowery performs in both bands.

At B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill tonight, Camper Van Beethoven included four of its six members from the 1980s — Lowery, lead guitarist Greg Lisher, violinist Jonathan Segel and bassist Victor Krummenacher  — and performed old songs and new. After a brief intermission, Lowery returned on stage with Hickman, CVB's rhythm section and several additional musicians. Cracker revolved around Lowery's singing and Hickman's playing, although Hickman also sang a couple of songs. Unlike contemporary singer-songwriters, Lowery spent little time on vulnerable lyrics and crooned instead to largely light-hearted lyrics, including "Low", "Teen Angst", "Mr. Wrong" and the political satire of "March of the Billionaires." Cracker opened with about a half hour of country songs, showing its Bakerfield side, and then rocked the Berkeley side for another 45 minutes. The approach to the two genres was radically distinct. Both the country and the rock songs independently were standard fare party tunes, but the few songs that blended the two genres inclined towards innovation. Diehard fans were treated to a surprising encore, when the accomplished accordionist Kenny Margolis joined Lowery and Hickman to form a trio for "Dr. Bernice" and "Been All Around the World." Overall, enjoying the Cracker concert required a sense of humor and an openness to diverse music.

Visit Cracker at