Poi Dog Pondering | 06.04.08

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Ipdp-full-2007.jpg’ve rarely seen a band gain such enjoyment and retain it during a two-hour set. Even the best PDP shows usually have a few missteps; but this performance remained tight and sharp from start to finish.



Blueberry Hill, St. Louis

Chicago’s long-running Poi Dog Pondering just released their aptly titled seventh studio album, 7, which drew positive reviews but wasn’t one of my favorites. Their concerts are generally cheerful dance parties, but I wondered if this show would retain the high energy level. Within minutes, those worries were gone, and the fiery crowd stuck right with the band for more than two hours. PDP began the set with “Perfect Music,” a quiet gem that starts the new record, than rolled through a stunning collection that represented some of the best work of their 22-year history.

The opening tune segued perfectly into the classic “Big Constellation,” which inspired the audience into some fun chants back to the band. The next group of songs included the upbeat, soulful “That’s the Way Love Is,”the emotional “Catacombs,” and the raucous “Jack Ass Ginger,” which has never been performed better. PDP also delivered a personal favorite, “Everybody’s Trying” — a former live staple that hadn’t appeared during their last few shows here. Throughout the evening, frontman Frank Orrall and company seemed determined to keep playing until everyone was having a good time. That may sound like silly hyperbole, but I’ve rarely seen a band gain such enjoyment and retain it during a two-hour set. Even the best PDP shows usually have a few missteps; but this performance remained tight and sharp from start to finish.

PDP has undergone numerous lineup changes since they formed in Hawaii back in 1986. Interestingly, the current lineup includes two original members who’ve returned to the fold — Dave Max Crawford and Ted Cho. Both performers are strong instrumentalists, with Cho playing solidly on rhythm guitar. Crawford’s involvement with keyboards and horns was pivotal on numerous tracks throughout the night. He also brought out the accordion for the raregems “Sugarbush Cushman” and “Big Walk,” both performed by audience request.Those tunes recalled a former era of PDP with more acoustics and greater whimsy. But the evening’s highlights were the dance numbers from 1995’s Pomegranaterecord, particularly “God’s Galipoli” and the crowd favorite “Complicated,” which closed the regular set in stunning fashion.

PDP’s fan base has always contained an odd mix of hippies, yuppies and the more typical concertgoer. It appears that the band has lessened its draw on the first two groups, which leaves the long-time fans whose tastescross musical genres. The encore included two favorites — “Shu Zulu Za” and “Diamonds and Buttermilk” — and closed with the new song “Lemon Drop Man,” and the crowd responded strongly to each tune. This audience seemed knowledgeable about PDP’s entire catalog, which helped keep spirits high throughout the performance. PDP’s style might not work for everyone, but this show offered their fans an enjoyable night from start to finish. | Dan Heaton

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