Music review: Reverential homage to ‘No Other’


Iain Matthews of Fairport Convention, left, performs at the 9:30 Club with members of Beach House, The Walkmen, Wye Oak, Grizzly Bear and other bands during a tribute to Gene Clark's seminal 1974 album, “No Other.” (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)
January 26

As far as musical tributes go, Friday night’s homage to Gene Clark’s 1974 solo album “No Other” was about as successful (and tastefully presented) as a re-creation can be. A collective of indie rockers (and a longtime folkie) reverentially interpreted songs from that distinctive record, casting a hazy, beatific glow over the sold-out 9:30 Club.

The sprawling band featured a trio of female vocalists that included Victoria LeGrand, who, along with Alex Scally, make up the Baltimore duo Beach House. The pair came up with the idea for the five-date tribute tour, which grew from their love of the record and its cascading, genre-melding sound.

The proceedings began with the screening of an edited version of the Clark biopic “The Byrd Who Flew Alone,” which served as both warm-up act and a fitting intro to the re-creation that followed.

And re-creation, more than a channeling of Clark (or the Byrds — though there was an encore of “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,” perhaps his best-known song), seemed to be the goal of the nearly hour-long set.

“We’re literally taking on the identities of [the original musicians],” Scally told The Post Express’s Rudi Greenberg in an interview published last week. “If there’s any interpretation that is heard, it’s due to our ineptitude to perfectly execute it. . . . Like an actor, we’re trying to role-play.”

And while the performance certainly wouldn’t have won any Oscars, it was solid enough that with eyes closed, one was able to conjure visions of Mendo­cino, Calif., where the bulk of “No Other” was reportedly composed.

While the music — made chiefly with electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, piano and drums — stayed close to the original source, the most interesting twist to the interpretation was the rotating cast of lead singers that included Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, the nattily dressed Hamilton Leithauser of the Walkmen and Iain Matthews, a founding member of seminal folk-rockers Fairport Convention.

Matthews and Leithauser rose most notably to the occasion, the former delivering a stirring version of one of the album’s cornerstone tracks, “Silver Raven.” Leithauser was formal in his delivery, but it suited the occasion, as well as highlighting what kept the show from being truly memorable: The performers occasionally seemed so focused on being reverent, they never loosened up enough to effectively role-play.

But role-play is what they did — and they clearly loved their subject. And if it was about setting a mood, the closing lines of “No Other” describe best what it was like inside the 9:30 as the show drew to a close: “And the seasons roll under the sun/Passing the shadows of our dreams.”

One doubts Clark would have disapproved.

Foster is a freelance writer.

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