Brilliant, but Distant
By F. Anderson Council
I’m not a Dave Mathews fan. I want to get that out at the very beginning. I respect the group’s musical abilities, but they’re not on my iPod. Nevertheless, serious music fans whose opinions I value said to go see Tim Reynolds at Hamilton Live because he would “blow my mind.”
Although mostly known for his work as the Dave Mathews Band’s lead guitarist, Tim Reynolds played the Mid-Atlantic region as far back as the ‘80’s with his eponymous trio before hooking up with Dave and crew. His band TR3 has some astoundingly talented band members in Mick Vaughn and Dan Martier on bass and drums, respectively, and their November 3rd show was a showcase of impressive talent.
Although displaying Tim’s guitar virtuosity is clearly the purpose of the show, thankfully Tim’s fellow musicians are virtuosos in their own right who can hold their own on stage with him. The trio is as tight as any jazz ensemble. The style can range from mellow clarity of a jazz riff to screaming, soaring metal-sounding solos. Tim’s collection of guitars, from a seven-string Paul Reed Smith to a variety of Strats and Les Pauls, provided a variety of impressive rock star visuals, but the effects-heavy sound left me wondering why so many guitars were required.
Despite his obvious talent, the performance can be… overwhelming. As Peter Griffin said of “The Godfather,” at times the performance “insists upon itself.” In the delicate balance between entertaining an audience and impressing them TR3 leans heavily on impressing us. Most of the set is instrumental and while the solos are phenomenal, songs made up of nothing but solos can be tiring.
On the few songs that Tim sang, his low, gravelly, almost Gollum-like voice actually served as an effective counterpoint and allowed the audience a connection that the intensely-focused, hunched-over, soloing Tim Reynolds did not. His singing brought balance to some songs that other, purely instrumental tunes lacked.
To be clear, however, Tim and the band did provide some wonderfully entertaining moments. At one point they turned the lights out on stage and wore blue “spy glasses,” so all we could see were three pairs of blue lights bouncing around in time to the music. They are clearly having fun on stage; my only request would be to do so more often, give us more song, dance and seltzer in the pants and less, “look what I can do.” Bring us along on that journey.
The most troubling part of the performance, however, wasn’t Tim and crew, it was the audience. The strikingly monochromatic crowd hardly moved. Not only were audience members glued to their seats rather than dancing, I couldn’t find feet tapping most of the time. After TR3 finished a song the audience would politely clap, but before the band could begin again there was an eerie quiet. The mood was reverence, not excitement and that was unfortunate.
TR3’s final number, however, was a raucous and incredibly well-played version of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” It was simply awesome. At once their version was both homage and creative expansion. Despite the crowd reluctance to emote, a reviewer for Cloture Club was on his feet screaming, “Yeah!” because, well, it suddenly seemed like a kick-ass rock show.
An unexpected bonus at the show was opening act Alex Vans and the Hide Away. A mostly local band, they are a seriously talented group and worth a look on their own. You can see them at The Dunes in Columbia Heights on November 17th. I’ll probably see you there.
In the end it was a good show that couldn’t live up to its potential, but was still pretty damned good and worth the price of a ticket.
The Hamilton Live
This being my first visit to the Hamilton’s Live, the venue itself deserves a mention. As a purpose-built music venue they spent some serious money getting the sound right. Even at moderate volume, the sound is clear and they have some professionals behind the mixing board. In short, the sound here is great.
The place is upscale compared to most live music venues in DC, meaning there’s no odor that DC music fans have come to identify with various clubs. Unlike most music venues I frequent, all the toilets and sinks worked and the bathrooms were clean. This is an important fact to consider when deciding on whether to take a date to a show.
The large framed black and white photos on the wall are well-chosen: a smoking Keith Richards nearest the bar, Elvis to his right and Beatles members, alone and in groups, scattered throughout. This nod to musical pedigree was well done and in the low, carefully placed lighting, it gave the venue a close musical feeling that helps overcome its newness.
Being in the basement of a restaurant you will also find better fare than a typical bar. I tried the sushi (pretty good, but honestly, what was I thinking ordering sushi at a rock show?), but their strength comes in more typical bar fare like the “loaded” chips (excellent) and there was high praise of the stromboli from a fellow patron.
Most of the dinner theater-style tables and chairs have great sight lines and the upstairs bar seating affords great views of the stage. My seat at the back bar was hampered had ready access to Dan the bartender and my next cocktail convinced me to stay put and not try to make my way for a closer seat. Shows are largely general admission, so arrive early and it shouldn’t be a problem.
The Hamilton Live is all in all a great venue and I will be coming back to see a show in the near future.