The best parties always have multiple reasons for celebration. At Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence this past Saturday (January 2), Narragansett Beer rang in their 125th year of serving delicious brews to the masses and the event doubled as a homecoming bash for Deer Tick and folk rock act Last Good Tooth’s first Providence show in months. Riding high off of their two-night New Year’s Eve stay at the Brooklyn Bowl, John McCauley and the gang aimed to please by unleashing a set of classics that hit all the right nostalgic nerves.
A special treat was seeing former Brown Bird member, and current leader of The Huntress and Holder of Hands, MorganEve Swain, perform with Last Good Tooth on violin. It was an unexpected surprise and she added to the band’s dynamic sound to start things off just right. Penn Sultan’s unique voice is a cross between Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Jeff Mangum all rolled into one. The rhythm section of Kevin Sullivan on bass and Arthur Kapp on drums were tightly knit during their performance, there was a distinct flow to their set along with a rigid intensity. Last Good Tooth kicked things off in emphatic fashion and it was fitting since the energy was bound to take over the entire venue in a matter of minutes.
With the roar of the crowd lifting the room even higher, Deer Tick took to the stage for their long-awaited return to where it all started — and they immediately went into high gear with “Main Street”. Followed by Ian O’Neil taking over vocal duties on “The Dream’s In The Ditch”, you could sense that it was going to be a night chock full of fan favorites. Everything got a tad toned down with “Art Isn’t Real (City Of Sin)” but the audience joined in on the chorus for one of the most thunderous moments of the night. There was a flurry of red, black and white balloons floating around everywhere and then everyone got their dancing shoes on for “Something To Brag About”. It was a crazy experience to see nearly everyone in the sold out venue dancing in one big group, surprisingly the floor didn’t cave in.
McCauley’s wife Vanessa Carlton joined in on vocals for the duet “In Our Time”; it’s amazing how well both of their voices can play off each other despite being fairly opposite. The main highlight of it all had to be the band’s rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”. Deer Tick’s version had fuzzier tone but there was also a big band feel to it that definitely had a vintage pop vibe that very few can duplicate. There was another fan favorite in “These Old Shoes” (originally written by current Cambridge resident Chris Paddock) and concluding the initial performance was the powerful lead single off of the band’s last album Negativity “The Rock” that nearly blew the roof off the place. Even with that being a great way to finish it all off, you knew Deer Tick wasn’t done yet.
Not wanting to have everyone leave wishing for more, the band came out after a short break for an encore that electrified everything in sight. The broken-hearted ballad “Ashamed” had the crowd revved up once again with the masses shouting every word. Then things got amplified with a dancing rendition of NRBQ’s “I Got A Rocket In My Pocket”, the multiple insane guitar solos in “Mange” and the party anthem “Let’s All Go To The Bar” had the entire audience going ridiculously insane.
Providence welcomed back their hometown heroes in a gracious way and it showed from start to finish. It was a night of seeing old friends and making new ones that had everyone in attendance leaving with a feeling of satisfaction once they walked out onto Washington Street.