Philadelphia-based pop-rock band Dr. Dog returned to the Farm last night, proving their powerhouse show last February was no accident. The enthusiastic Monday night crowd was primed and ready after opening sets by Quiet Life and David Vandervelde, the latter trio looking like Beard and Mustache contest champions and sounding like a janglier version of My Morning Jacket.
Dr. Dog launched into a lengthy and powerful set, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with songs old and new. They started off with the hometown anthem "Shadow People," and then launched into "The Ark," a dark and moody standout from 2010's Shame, Shame. They proceeded through five albums worth of music. "The Girl," a deep cut fan favorite from their 2007 release We All Belong, sounded like a mash-up of the Byrds, the Clash, and Yes, all in one lush, exhausting song. The singalong choruses of "Jackie Wants A Black Eye" and "Hold On" gave the crowd a chance to be part of the action.
The keyboards filled in where studio tracks utilized strings and horns, often moving from saloon-style ragtime tinkling to full symphonic swells within one track. Drummer Eric Slick, who has played with prog-rock icon Adrian Belew, expertly held together the dueling influences of pop, rock opera, and psychedelia present in so many of their songs.
Bassist Toby Leaman and guitarist Scott McMicken share songwriting and vocal duties, trading back and forth, both brooding existentialism and pop poetry, like a young John and Paul team in wrinkled jeans and ski hats.
The band has been working on a new album, but didn't share as many new tracks as the crowd was hoping for. The introduction, "We're gonna try a new one, and aim to please in doing so," led into the only unknown track of the night.
Trading in the churchy stained-glass decor from their last tour for a living-room-style set of quirky wall art, footstools and fuzzy animal trophies, Dr. Dog seems to be finding more solid footing and comfort in the spotlight. Judging by the smiles and sweat of the crowd last night, they will be welcomed back to town with open arms.