For the past decade, Slim Cessna's Auto Club has been playing the Bluebird on New Year's Eve and the night before. As Slim himself says, it just kind of happened. The band just kept getting asked to do these yearly shows. For past New Year's shows, the band has stepped things up with themes or elaborate stage setups, but last night, the first night of the Auto Club's two-night set, didn't have any of that. Then again, the band doesn't really need any other frills to put on a hell of a show.
Dressed head to toe in black Western garb, Slim and Munly riled up the crowd early on with "Goddamn Blue Yodel #7," a fiery take on "This Is How We Do Things in the Country" and "Cranston," a song about the city in Rhode Island where Slim moved after leaving Denver in 2000. Things turned into a gospel revival of sorts on "Hold My Head," with most folks waving their arms in front of the stage and Slim singing about Moses parting the sea and setting his people free. Slim jumped into the crowd at one point and parted his own sea of sorts with dozens of waving arms around him. "Children of the Lord" had a similar revival feel, with Slim and Munly singing in unison.
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Drawing mainly from 2000's Always Say Please and Thank You, 2008's Cipher and the most recent album Unentitled, the Auto Club played twenty songs, including the encore, over the course of close to two hours. "That Fierce Cow Is Common Sense in a Country Dress" started off fairly tame, but it didn't take long for the song pick up steam, and by the end, the guys had the crowd whipped into a frenzy during the "get a little higher" section near the end of the song. While the band delivered a number of high-energy cuts with fervor, in dropped in a few slower songs, like the unhurried country of "Jesus Christ" and the twangy "Cold Cold Eyes."
For the first song of the encore, Slim dedicated "United Brethren" to his people and the people of the United Brethren Church in Longmont. Munly sat on a chair and strummed on the autoharp while guitarist/banjo player Dwight Pentacost played the melodica for the first time of the night. Slim, who noted that his parents were in the crowd, said that "Last Song About Satan" was for his mom.
During the song, Jello Biafra came on stage with his hands on his head, index fingers pointing out to mimic devil's horns. After a fierce take on "Unto the Day," most of the band left the stage and the house lights went up. As a lot of the crowd filed out, most probably didn't realize that Slim was still on stage singing along to a karaoke track of Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times."
Personal Bias: I've seen the Auto Club quite a few times, and while the band delivered a damn fine show, it didn't seem to have quite the fire of previous shows. Random Detail: Two gals near the stage flew out from Los Angeles for the shows. By the Way: Tin Horn Prayer opened the night in fine form with an incredibly energetic set, while Drag the River delivered an uninspired set that was a bit disjointed, with the band going back and forth between slow and fast songs.
Slim Cesnna's Auto Club Bluebird Theater - Denver, CO 12/30/11
Goddamn Blue Yodel #7 This Is How We Do Things in the Country Cranston Hold My Head Do You Know Thee Enemy? That Fierce Cow Is Common Sense in a Country Dress Cold Cold Eyes The Unballed Ballad Of The New Folksinger Jesus Christ Americadio Boom Magalina Hagalina Boom Children of the Lord My Last Black Scarf Red Pirate of the Prairie A Smashing Indictment of Character Everyone Is Guilty #4
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United Brethren Three Bloodhounds Two Shepherds, One Fila Brasileiro Last Song About Satan Unto the Day