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Miller makes one beautiful noise

Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach, Cal., January 19, 2024

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Rhett Miller fronts the fantastic band, Old 97's, but with this solo performance, he proved he doesn't (always) need a band. With his long hair whipping around like the spin cycle in a washing machine while all the while aggressively strumming on his acoustic guitar, Miller raised quite a beautiful racket all by his lonesome.

Miller is also a strong vocalist, and it takes a powerful singer to sing over such loud guitar playing. Miller performed for approximately 90 minutes, never letting the energy level drop. He sang mostly Old 97's songs, including favorites like "Rollerskate Skinny" and "Timebomb" (his final encore). He even debuted the title track to Old 97's upcoming full-length, "American Primitive," which he said aptly describes what Old 97's do so well.

Before singing it, he told a funny story about sharing this new music with his friend, author Stephen King, and how that famous horror writer leaked news about the upcoming album a little too soon. It turns out, King is an Old 97's fan. The first time Miller met King the writer croaked an Old 97's lyric back to him. "What's so great about the Barrier Reef?" from "Barrier Reef," which Miller also sang later.

Miller's first encore was "Good With God," which he wrote with Brandi Carlile (before she broke out big time). He joked at about how he must have been integral in her eventual commercial success and that the role men play in women's success is underrated. He was being sarcastic, of course. The song is a fun, semi-religious piece, that plays to both artists' lyrical strengths.

Although Miller's music was all acoustic this night, the photos that are hung on the walls around the club feature famous SoCal punk acts, like Circle Jerks and Black Flag. Seeing these pictures caused Miller to fondly recall his time rubbing shoulders with early Los Angeles punk rock proponents. Playing so aggressively on his acoustic guitar, though, was quite punk, in its odd way. Miller was that proverbial timebomb that just couldn't wait to explode. When he went off, he made one beautiful noise.

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