Given the impressive multidimensionality that permeates Cracker’s current Virgin album, “The Golden Age,” it was a bit disheartening to find that the group in concert is mostly content to swing only between straight-ahead rockers and country-tinged ballads. More disconcerting, though, was front man David Lowery’s perfunctory attitude.
It’s a weird road Lowery has traveled: jettisoning the avant-weirdness of Camper Van Beethoven to begin anew in 1992 with Cracker, maintaining his decidedly smartass demeanor but leavening it with a fierce rock attack and some occasionally heartfelt lyrics.
Never predictable, the group served up its early hits — the mocking “Teen Angst” and more emotionally and musically complex “Low”– surprisingly early in the proceedings, a first half highlighted by the manically charged “Movie Star.”
A nearly Zeppelin-esque trawl through the gutsy stomper “Sweet Thistle Pie” also boded well, but energy rapidly was sapped with a rather numbing foray into subcountry honk workouts such as “Dixie Babylon.” The largely underage crowd was clearly puzzled and anxious to reconnect with the band, which soon enough returned to more bash-and-crash. On record the nuances come shining through; at the show, throughout which Lowery remained aloof, it evolved into a dull roar.
Lowery is certainly one of the smartest and wryest writers working the alternative rock scene these days, but one would have been hard-pressed to realize this through most of this show. The group remains muscular and powerful, but if Lowery wasn’t exactly bored with it all, he wasn’t turning handstands, either. It was left to guitarist/foil Johnny Hickman to twist and mug.
Cracker is on the edge of becoming an attraction of monstrous proportions — but shouldn’t it be more fun getting there?