Concerts

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians Rhapsodize At The Heights Theater

Edie Brickell still believes in ghosts.
Edie Brickell still believes in ghosts. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
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.
click to enlarge The New Bohemians get their groove on. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA
The New Bohemians get their groove on.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
Last night's show also demonstrated the New Boho's later influences, for better and worse. Hunter and the Dog Star is the band at its most experimental, incorporating Brickell's improvisational and country roots with the rest of the band's jazz and rock influences. "Sleeve" is kind of a spoken-word litany of tattoo elements, while "Miracles" betrays a lounge-ier approach, with "My Power" being more straight ahead rock. Brickell also expressed her affection for animal spirits before launching into "Buffalo Ghost" (from 2006's Stranger Things).

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.
click to enlarge In the blink of the public eye. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA
In the blink of the public eye.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
Personal Bias: "Circle" was playing in my apartment when I (finally) broke up with a certain college girlfriend. I still have a lot of affection for that song.

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."

SET LIST
Love Like We Do
Sleeve
Don't Get In the Bed Dirty
Little Miss S.
Circle
Stwisted
Horse's Mouth
Spanish Style Guitar
Rough Beginnings
Ghost Of A Dog
Buffalo Ghost
Miracles
My Power
What I Am
What Makes You Happy

ENCORE
The Wheel
Stranger Things
Green Magic
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar