We finally got into the club, and we prepared to wait for the main act while checking out the different openers. And that was when things got interesting.
The first supporting act was Linus Flax, a very nervous, very shy girl. Granted, I’m all for giving unknown artists the respect they deserve, but that stops the moment they start apologizing for messing up their songs (which we don’t know) and they stop playing them and do several starts and stops and continue to apologize for messing up. Go ahead and mess up, we don’t know you from Adam; we won’t notice. The set was mercifully short and the standout piece was her version of Blind Melon’s “No Rain.”
The second supporting act, J. Randy, was better. He was very aware we were not there for him, but had a nice attitude about it. He played longer than the first act, not by much, and then the stage was set for James.
James was stoked to see all his fans there to see him, and went right down to business. He opened the show with “Button-Down Vandals” and after that he realized he’d left his set list in the dressing room, which he, at one point, compared to a sauna due to the temperature down there. In the meantime, he started riffing the intro to “Dangerous” which was greeted with much approval, so he just went right into it while someone was fetching his set list. “All That She Wanted,” “White Hot Girls”, “The Birth of the Blues”, and “Smile” followed. After “Smile” he told us of his niece finding a sweetheart in school and discussing romance with her, telling her that “romance is a very exciting thing, but it’s also a headache, as the next song shows,” and launched into “Poor Robyn”. “Louise”, “Fall Of Night”, “Katie” (where he told us the story once again of falling in love with a lesbian), “Up On Me”, and “For What I Need” (which caused him to ask us, “Could I cram one more sexual metaphor in that song? I don’t think so!”) followed. He was truly happy to be playing, and repeatedly thanked us for our support. “I always forget how much fun this is, when I’m down there going, ‘You’re not ready, you’re not ready,’ and then I come out and I get this. You’re doing so much for my ego right now, you have no idea.”
The songs kept on coming, hard and fast: “Jealous Man”, “Too Fast”, “London City”, “Don’t Worry, Son“, “Merced Track Meet”, and “Not a Millionaire”. At one point he asked us if we could all go to his house “and do this in front of my children. ‘Buffy the… whatever, Dad, where’s my steak?!’” Then it was time for “Finer Than Gold”, “Bad” and “Angel,” and then he went away “to do the cheesy thing, where you make a lot of noise and I come back out, all surprised that you wanna hear me more,” which he promptly did upon returning to the stage.
His encore brought us three more songs – “No Promises,” “Civilized Man,” and the cover of Keb Mo’s “Lullaby,” after admitting that if he went on playing, he’d have to start “doing Nirvana songs, and nobody wants to hear that.” The show was over, and we all marched out of the club to stand in line to come back inside for the second show at 6:00PM.
If self-deprecation is an art, the first of the two opening acts for James’ second show has mastered it. Blake Ian took the stage and first words out of his mouths were, “I know you’re not here to see me, that you just want to see James Marsters, so I’ll just do this and get out of your way.” He regaled us with some songs from his repertoire (he has three Cds available in iTunes) and kept joking back and forth with the audience. For instance, when asked what the Japanese symbols on his t-shirt meant, he said, “James Marsters.” Stuff like that, silly and fun.
Ben Conklin followed, and the silliness continued. In addition to his songs, he sang a compilation of his favorite bits of well-known rap songs that he’d put together, and it was hysterical to hear the entire club singing along to the rap from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” When he finished the song, Conklin quipped, “See? You rap a little and all the world loves you!”
It was time for James again, and he came out even happier than before, if such a thing is possible. He opened his show with “Every Man Thinks God Is On His Side,” followed by “This Town” (my personal favorite), the bluesy “The Truth Is a Heavy Stone”, once again “Bad”, “No Promises” and “Patricia” (which very few people sang along to.)
James then got very serious and said he was gonna do a song he had “always been too chicken to play for you guys, but I feel I can do it today. Hope you like it”, and he launched into “Three”. He was extremely serious and sad after singing that, but we liked it a lot and cheered accordingly. He then did “All That She Wanted”, and as he was getting ready for the next song, someone yelled, “Show us your tits!” which gave him a giggle fit. He then played “Louise”, and mentioned the air in the club carried “the energy of an impending orgy”, to much merriment in the audience.
The audience was particularly vocal during the second show, probably due to the repeated visits to the bar earlier in the day and during the opening acts for the second show. People started to yell at James they’d come to attend the show from such faraway places as Ohio, Chicago and Canada, to which he replied, raising his hand, “I came from California!” It was time for more songs, “Fall of Night” came and then he asked us again if we could go to his house and cheer him on like this in front of his children. He looked really, really happy to just be playing his music for us.
The next song was “Not a Millionaire”, and that’s when the spotlight on him went out. The rest of the show was played illuminated by just a red spotlight, starting with “London City”. After playing “White Hot Girls”, he told us that his niece had actually saved the song. “It used to have just two verses that I’d sing and it’d be over, and one day my niece told me, ‘You know, that really offends me. You should write a verse about the good girls, too.’ and that’s just what made the song click.”
“Up on Me”, “Katie”, “Jealous Man”, and the requests kept coming from the audience, ranging from “Dangerous” to “Free Bird” (don’t ask!) unti
l he looked at us and said, “Hey, man, I have a plan here. Let me follow it.” And he went on to play “Don’t Worry, Son”, “Dangerous” (dedicated to a little girl in the front row), “Poor Robyn”, “Goodbye (Too Fast)” and “Civilized Man”. He then left the stage once again, so we could cheer for him and get him to come back out, which he promptly did. The encore was “Angel”, “For What I Need”, and “Button-Down Vandals.” And then, it was over, much too soon. He repeated his love for us and how thankful he was for our support and for showing up and enjoying his music as much as he does.
Overall, two great shows with great energy and great fun for the people on and off the stage. Here’s hoping many of the songs James has played both here and at the previous concert at Sci-Fi Grand Slam soon see the light of day in his new album.