The Heights Theater
August 12, 2021
The story is pretty well known (and possibly apocryphal): a teenage Edie Brickell hops onstage at a Deep Ellum bar to sing with some former high school classmates. Fast forward a few years, and the debut album of the newly christened Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, is a massive hit, spawning singles like "What I Am" and "Circle."
The New Bohemians' follow-up, Ghost of a Dog, attempted to firm up the pop sensibilities of Rubberbands, but the magic couldn't be recaptured, and the band broke up for a time. Brickell married and started a family (making a couple solo albums in the process), and the group reunited in the early '00s, releasing three albums since. The latest, Hunter and the Dog Star, came out six months ago.
Thursday night's show at the Heights Theater is the first of a trio of Texas dates, and Brickell and the NBs — Kenny Withrow (guitar), Brandon Aly (drums), Brad Houser (bass), John Bush (percussion), and backup singer Kira (?) — started right on time. Very age appropriate.
Brickell remarked, "I don't remember the last time we played in Houston," which was immediately answered by several shouted reminders ("Numbers, 1988!" "Rockefellers!"). Setlist.fm says it was Willie Nelson's 2018's Outlaw Music Festival, and with Willie involved, a little short term memory lapse is certainly understandable.
The band busted out some of the big guns early, opening with "Love Like We Do" from Rubberbands, and playing "Little Miss S." and "Circle" from the same album before most of us had finished our first beer. The latest release was also well represented, with "Sleeve" and "Don't Get The Bed Dirty" making early appearances.
The band was missing one member, keyboardist Matt Hubbard, who "caught the variant," according to Brickell. This led to her observing that the remaining crew onstage was the original incarnation of the New Bohemians (not counting Kira, I guess), which was ... kind of odd, especially in a venue where maybe 10 percent of the attendees were masked.
Aly and Houser laid down a steady rhythm, with Bush contributing to the hippie ambience. And while Withrow is a capable axe man — he was really out front on many of the numbers — an extended riffage during several of the songs wore thin quickly. The New Bohemians have always teetered on the edge of jam band-ness, and famously had to trim songs down to appease the label for Rubberbands, but Houston's notoriously chatty (and late night-averse) crowds probably weren't the right audience to push that envelope.
And at times, it seems like Brickell agreed. As the night wore on, the lead singer often appeared to be checking out; staring into the middle distance during the guitar solos. If rumors (courtesy of the dude at the urinal next to me in the Heights Theater men's room) are to be believed, tensions between the two contributed to the band's initial breakup.
Whatever. Hearsay has little place in what was an undeniably triumphant return for Brickell and company. The arena days of the 1980s are long gone, but the New Bohemians have a passionate enough following to keep making their music and playing for the faithful as long as "The Wheel" (or "Circle") of time allows.
The Crowd: In the late '80s/early '90s, we called them "granola chicks." I'd probably avoid that now.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Think he wants to start a mosh pit?"
Random Notebook Dump: "If buffalo have ghosts, I bet they're pissed."
Love Like We Do
Don't Get In the Bed Dirty
Little Miss S.
Spanish Style Guitar
Ghost Of A Dog
What I Am
What Makes You Happy