Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jeremy Fisher, The Proclaimers - The El Rey, Los Angeles, May 16.

Befriending a fan up front who'd been following the Proclaimers this tour, I was told the band's new songs included “all-out rockers” and more of the political awareness for which the band's not so known. And judging by the audience, a combination of girls in their twenties and men in their forties, it should have seemed that loyal Proclaimers fans were in on a sort of secret punk edge possessed by the band – this is the same crowd you'll see at a Buzzcocks show, after all.

But there wasn't much all-out rocking, and there was no edge to be found. Not only did the pairing of Jeremy Fisher with the Proclaimers serve as family-friendly entertainment, the Proclaimers themselves were lacking in stage presence and crowd interaction, incredibly by-the-book and offering few smiles.

Opener Jeremy Fisher, who can't possibly not be the nicest guy imaginable, tried so very hard to make light of the empty space in the room but came off sounding uncomfortable and disappointed. The wholesome singer-songwriter has a Paul Simon-style croon, soft and slightly nasal, and spoke often enough to compensate for the Proclaimers' lack of interaction. But his performance felt, well, rather bible camp. So pure, predictably poppy, unoffensive – Christ, the guy's even got a song called “High School.”

“Scar That Never Heals” sounded a bit like a watered-down version of the Clash's “Car Jamming” and closing track “Left Behind” was reminiscent of Bright Eyes' “First Day of My Life." These were perhaps his best, but the whole set felt rather soulless overall.

The Proclaimers fared no better; there was no straying from their recordings, and even their covers were vanilla – their version of Wreckless Eric's “Whole Wide World” (on last year's Life With You) was delivered with the exact same energy as the swell 'n easy “King of the Road,” which filled one of four encore spaces.
To their credit, guitarist Zac Ware plays a lovely steel slide, and sure, there is something oddly amusing about a half-full venue suddenly coming to life so that 300 people can bob heads and sing along to “I'm Gonna Be” in unison. But the entire set, right down to “I'm Gonna Be” as finale, was predictable and showed a band that appears tired of its own songs.

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