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Deer Tick faces the music quite well

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., December 30, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Deer Tick would never be accused of being a smooth, well-oiled musical machine. Far from it. In years past, Deer Tick seemed to embody the wild, rough side of music both on and off stage.

Lead singer John McCauley professed at one point at the first of two sold-out shows that he had the best job because he could drink on the job.

But McCauley and his three band mates abandoned the sometimes sloppy quality of yesteryear for a well-constructed night that showed the veteran group at the top of their game.

The high-end songs covered a number of musical styles. Deer Tick mixed it up throughout the night from roots rock to country to a few ballads.

McCauley was on fire throughout with his clear, forceful singing (he also could tone it down). He shared singing duties with drummer Dennis Ryan (he was sure handed and also had the heretofore unseen distinction of eating a banana during the show) and guitarist Ian O'Neil.

McCauley also shifted from guitar to electric mandolin to keyboards with the latter showcasing his more tender side.

Deer Tick had a lot of help as the fans were singing the lyrics to just about every song. The highlight was the call-and-response of the ebullient "Bump," a musical tour de force.

With the group coming back for a New Year Eve's show at the same venue, McCauley dismissed the notion that the band would turn it up a notch for the celebration. He knowingly indicated that this night would suffice.

And it was a most fun night with the quartet - three decked out in gold and black lame suits and Dennis Ryan looking like an Elvis impersonator - clearly enjoying the night as well.

As the lyrics go to the song "Bump" go, "We're full grown men/But we act like kids/We'll face the music/Next time we roll in." With 2019 winding down, Deer Tick has faced the music quite well.

Texas (mainly) piano player Robert Ellis entertained with his opening set of jazz, country and more pop sounding songs. His vocals stood out (the lead-off "Fucking Crazy" - it's a love song -along with "Nobody Smokes Anymore" and "Passive Aggressive") along with his engaging, warm interaction with the crowd.

Lead guitarist Kelly Doyle played with a lot of restrained muscle. And the rhythm section of the Ryan brothers (Chris was on bass and duplicated those skills minutes later for his main gig) did a firmly set the rhythm.

Ellis was certainly dressed for New Year's Eve as he was in in all-white outfit including a white jacket with tails and a white hat. In Ellis' case, though, it wasn't just the clothes that made the man.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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