Owen | 3.20.07

When he's playing, Kinsella is an expert at communicating his songs. When the music stopped, the distractions he invited ultimately led to an uneven show.

 

w/Rocky Votolato
Off Broadway, St. Louis

"Hi, I'm Mike."

And with those words, Mike Kinsella (aka Owen) started the first show of his two-and-a-half-week U.S. tour in St. Louis before a dense crowd. Onstage as a solo act, he played along with backing tracks from his iPod, something he admitted he'd never done before. The show was at times beautiful and perfect. He soon had every eye and ear, as lots of people gathered to sit on the hardwood floor in front of the stage. Presumably people who'd seen him before and knew what they were getting themselves into.

This was the third time I've seen Owen, and this was by far the best his voice and songs ever sounded. He seemed distracted, though. He played three or four songs from his new Polyvinyl release At Home With Owen, inviting crowd banter in between songs. I soon found myself wondering how much he wanted to be there.

When he's playing, Kinsella is an expert at communicating his songs. When the music stopped, the distractions he invited ultimately led to an uneven show. Captivating performances diluted by awkward antics.

Eventually, the joking and pauses evolved into him putting his guitar down and dancing to a song on his iPod. This was accepted and funny, but by now I think those of us in the front were wishing he'd just keep playing his own wonderful songs. Perhaps intuitively, he quelled our thirst for his best efforts by playing "She's a Thief" from his previous album, I Do Perceive.

The iPod, when Kinsella chose to use it to accompany his songs, was a great asset to his show. But for his closing number, he locked up his guitar in its case and played air drums to a song. In with a bang, out with a whimper.

Owen draws people to his shows because they realize he is a rare, brilliant songwriting talent. His performance left his listeners with more questions than answers, which is a pattern that's been developing, leaving fans to wonder what he cares about. | Geoff Koch

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