A hero’s welcoming for Dr. Dog

“God, you have no idea how good it feels to be here!” says Dr. Dog bassist/vocalist Toby Leaman, Thursday night at the Electric Factory. “We’ve been doing this for so long, and we’ve played so many places, it’s nice to finally be back home in Philly!” The crowd explodes in cheering, and Leaman smiles. It’s been half a year since the hometown heroes—known for their sweet, rolling, psych pop melodies and zany energy—played a big local show—so it’s no surprise that everyone is pumped. And the band—never ones to let an opportunity for celebration go to waste—absolutely kill it, offering a massive 2-hour long set that spans nearly their entire career.

Providence, RI’s Deer Tick open the show—a rowdy 5-piece who blend rollicking roots rock with world-wearied folk, for a result that is both invigorating and intimate. Front man John McCauley is a master of mood, his confident swagger on punchy charmers like “Easy” melding into vulnerability as he lets loose a cavalcade of gravelly moans on “Ashamed.” The band’s hour long set is peppered with covers—like Chris Paddock’s “These old shoes” (beautiful and passionate) and Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene.” (“This one goes out to Ron from Toy Soldiers,” announces McCauley, before launching into a toe-tapping rendition.) They end with a cover of ZZ Top’s “Cheap sunglasses,” McCauley pulling a pair of white shades from his pocket as he rocks out on guitar. Totally bad-ass.

Dr. Dog take the stage next, clad in their trademark silly accessories and bathed in beams of brilliantly colored light. They kick off their set with “Stranger”, the opening track off the recently-released Shame, Shame—then launch into a massive run of 19 songs—drawn mostly from Shame and 2008’s Fate. Live, everything sounds bigger and fuller—the harmonies on “The old days” ringing in the air like circus bells, as the band skips around and the crowd is transformed into a raucous summer bash.

Tunes like “The rabbit, the bat, and the reindeer” are rousing, ramshackle fun—the crowd clapping along enthusiastically—while new single “Shadow people” is wistful and a little bit bittersweet, guitarist/vocalist Scott McMicken closing his eyes and crooning gently as he delivers the anthem of West Philly angst: “in some backyard, in some plastic chair/ hoping these cigarettes will save us.”

They close their set with “Shame, shame”—going out in a flurry of flashing lights—then return and treat the audience to an impressive 25-minute encore—with includes crowd-pleasers “Jackie wants a black eye” (insatiable jaunty fun), “My friend” (rolling, St. Pepper-style grooves) and a cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart it races”—as well as more obscure older numbers, like passionate confessional “Die die die” (off 2007’s We All Belong), and “Mystery to me”, off 2002’s Toothbrush. When they finally leave the stage for good, around midnight—the venue is buzzing with good vibes and positive energy. Hometown heroes for the win again!

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