A sold-out crowd witnessed Rhett Miller in fine form this past Saturday at World Café. With Old 97’s and solo material at his disposal, he rattled through the lives of his many colorful characters with their grit and grime in full glory. Raucous and pure fun, it was certainly a great way to welcome November.
Opening with “Stoned” from the Old 97’s first record Hitchhike to Rhome, Miller let everyone know from the beginning that this would be a loose yet electric night. With his trusty Gibson guitar and a bolt of energy whenever he needed it, he was as electric as ever. Whenever there was a moment for him to shake around and twist his head to and fro, he would take it. And his signature whirling picking action was also in full effect. Despite it being a seated show, the crowd certainly let their pleasure at these sights be known throughout the night.
Miller was in a highly garrulous mood. Mentioning the upcoming rerelease of Rhome he said that when the Old 97’s went into to their first recording sessions for it the same morning Uncle Tupelo had left the studio after doing their final recording for their last record Anodyne. Full-circle alt-country to rock stalwart, Miller also opined about the lyric “Do I have a car?” in his classic “Great Barrier Reef.” He remarked on the hearse he drove around in high school with a futon in the back that also was the same futon in the band’s first van. Blood-stained and well-traveled, it was not an easy place to get a one-night stand to in his early years.
And with the Old 97’s 2014 masterpiece Most Messed Up a sometimes meta commentary on their own rock past and present, it was fitting for Miller to reflect while being a one-man song catalog. And works from this record like the title track and “The Disconnect” certainly sizzle solo. Miller also produced some rare chestnuts, including “As Close As I Came to Being Right.” Originally a duet with Rosanne Cash, Miller was tempted to do the song after seeing her picture in the stairwell of World Café Live. Though his voice could certainly not stand in for Cash’s, it was still a brilliant moment in a stunning show.
With this being his second solo show this year at World Café Live (the other was in February), it was great to see Miller switch up the set so much while also seeing his fans so engaged. For the encore, one of the front seated sections stood and rocked while Miller offered up a cover choice of R.E.M. or The Clash. The crowd desired the latter and he ripped into “Career Opportunities.” Still at the top of his music game, Miller was certainly a serial fan’s dream on Saturday.
August John Lutz II of the Pennsylvania-based Levee Drivers opened for Miller. With a 2013 EP Speakin’ Bourbon Coated Blues among the music he played, he was a good warm-up for Miller.