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Dr. Dog retrieves a carefree classic rock sound at Liberty Hall

Madcap purveyors of exuberantly sloppy music, the members of Dr. Dog don’t take themselves too seriously, as evidenced by the band’s show Wednesday night at Liberty Hall.
Madcap purveyors of exuberantly sloppy music, the members of Dr. Dog don’t take themselves too seriously, as evidenced by the band’s show Wednesday night at Liberty Hall.

Palm fronds and a large image of a pink flamingo decorated the stage of Liberty Hall on Wednesday night as Dr. Dog performed for an audience of about 700.

The set reflected the Philadelphia sextet’s reputation as a knowingly kitschy indie-rock band.

Madcap purveyors of exuberantly sloppy music, the members of Dr. Dog don’t take themselves too seriously.

The band has never had a mainstream hit, but it has managed to assemble a substantial audience for its occasionally charming music and enthrallingly haphazard performances.

Dr. Dog began making ramshackle rock in 1999. Much of the band’s early work resembles enthusiastic but adorably inept attempts to rewrite the Beach Boys’ classic album “Pet Sounds.”

The band has evolved. Portions of Wednesday’s 90-minute outing sounded as if the musicians were playing every song on the Beatles’ “White Album” simultaneously. Much of the concert was a mess.

The audience didn’t expect perfection. They patiently endured failed experiments and interpretations of lesser material while waiting to hear inspired jams and familiar favorites.

“That Old Black Hole” galvanized a dance party in front the stage. The jaunty “Distant Light” highlighted Dr. Dog’s impressive vocal harmonies.

“Heavy Light” demonstrated that the band regularly crafts wonderful melodies. Scoured of the eccentric embellishments that Dr. Dog applied to it Wednesday night, “Broken Heart” is another song that may be catchy enough to become a hit for an adventurous pop or country artist.

The melancholy “I Hope There’s Love” indicated the band is capable of writing sensitive love songs. “Lonesome,” the sentimental song that ended the evening, revealed the band’s penchant for celebrating sadness.

Distressingly, the best song of the concert was a cover. Dr. Dog’s reworking of Architecture In Helsinki’s “Heart It Races” amplified the recklessness of the original even as it reveled in heartbreak.

Members of the opening band, Mewithoutyou, joined Dr. Dog on a rollicking rendition of “Spirit, Oh Spirit.”

Aside from their shared roots in Philadelphia, the ensembles are odd tour mates. Dr. Dog is an exemplary party band while Mewithoutyou emphasize spiritual concerns.

The quintet’s 45-minute opening set often resembled the dramatic soundtrack to an avant-garde rendering of religious texts. A post-punk band prone to issuing dire lyrical proclamations about sin and salvation, Mewithoutyou performed with manic urgency.

Dr. Dog, conversely, seemed entirely relaxed, a carefree attitude reflected by its appreciative fans.

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