While Jimmy Buffett serenaded a capacity Sprint Center audience Saturday with such party anthems as “Margaritaville,” the Old 97’s performed booze-soaked songs several blocks away at Crossroads KC.
Unlike Buffett, the Old 97’s have yet to score a mainstream hit during a critically lauded career that began in 1993. Yet the Texas band’s songs about broken relationships and the curative properties of alcohol have a lot in common with Buffett’s repertoire.
The majority of the Old 97’s songs are either twangy punk nuggets or jangly power pop anthems. Both styles have been out of favor for years, a status that helps explain why only a few hundred people attended Saturday’s concert.
The quartet didn’t seem bothered by the poor turnout as they blazed through 27 songs in a workmanlike performance that was 15 minutes shy of two hours.
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Much of the concert’s success was tied to the strength of the material from the 2014 album “Most Messed Up.” Candid lyrics about the consequences of hard living make the release one of the band’s best efforts.
Front man Rhett Miller shouted that “I’ll prove it all night to the porcelain god” during a rendition of the title track. The amusing career appraisal “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” included the lyric “bottles of whiskey/bottles of beer/There’s a bottle of medicine somewhere ‘round here.”
Several older songs also addressed the effects of alcohol. Miller sang “I might just get drunk tonight and burn the nightclub down” on “Niteclub” and suggested that "I'll drink myself to sleeplessness" on “Big Brown Eyes.”
The latter song showcased the burly work of guitarist Ken Bethea and drummer Philip Peeples. Both men prioritize feel over finesse, an approach that retains the band’s punk roots even on sensitive material. A cover of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” sung by bassist Murry Hammond owed more to the Clash than to the country legend.
While the contributions of his band mates were impressive, Miller was the center of attention. His handsome visage is almost as striking as his formidable talent as a songwriter. The combination worked well on “Question,” a lovely ballad about a marriage proposal.
One of the evening’s best songs wouldn’t have sounded out of place at the Sprint Center. Almost certainly inspired by a Buffett song with a similarly lewd title, “Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” expresses a sentiment that would meet with the approval of Buffett and his legions of fans.
The Delta Saints: The quintet from Nashville looked and sounded as if it was committed to recreating the grooviest portions of the soundtrack of the Woodstock festival. The potent live act is equal parts Joe Cocker, Ten Years After and Canned Heat.
HoneyHoney: Supplemented by a drummer, the duo of Benjamin Jaffe and Suzanne Santo opened the evening with 30 minutes of pleasant Americana.
Old 97’s set list
Won't Be Home, Victoria, Give It Time, Niteclub, W. TX. Teardrops, Longer Than You've Been Alive, Busted Afternoon, Designs on You, The Fool, The Ex of All You See, Rollerskate Skinny, Nashville, Four Leaf Clover, Question, Wish the Worst, Mama Tried, Wheels Off, Perfume, Champagne Illinois, This Is The Ballad, Barrier Reef, Can't Get a Line, Let's Get Drunk and Get It On, Every Night is Friday Night, Doreen, Most Messed Up, Big Brown Eyes, Timebomb