By Howard Myint
It was a nearly packed house when Black Lab took to the stage Friday night at Slim's. By the time the second number, "She Loves Me," hit its stride, a sleazy effect seized the crowd. Bridge and tunnelers dressed in their flannel Friday best bobbed their heads; their girlfriends swayed to bassist Geoff Stansfield's throbbing groove. Singer/guitarist Paul Durham seemed a touch removed, but it gave him an authority that the crowd seemed to eat up. Here was their (the twenty-somethings, I mean) Thin White Duke. Durham's head moved side to side while the rest of his body remained still, save for his ever-sweeping picking hand.
For the entire set (it's safe to say), Black Lab held the audience entranced with their intensely danceable numbers. One woman by the side of the stage made it her own personal drum, keeping time to drummer Bryan Head's emphatic drumming. Head made sure to place the emphasis on all the right parts of Durham's songs, elevating them from static pieces to dynamic, interactive works that relied on audience synergy. Gauging by the whoops and hollers, Black Lab delivered the goods. At the end of the first song of the set, Durham held out a note in an exceptionally strong tenor. A baseball-capped man was overheard saying, "He's got a voice like an angel." Guess all that time spent in two Idaho church choirs paid off.
"In Seattle, they like to be insulted. When I asked people in Vancouver if this was a disco town, they thought I was talking about Cecil's-a strip joint," said Durham. With that Durham and crew banged out a Stones-y disco vamp, not unlike "Miss You." Lead guitarist Michael Belfer added wah wah flourishes for that authentic flavor. Bassist, Stansfield added impossibly high backing vocals to Durham's pristine falsetto for that gospel chorus affect.
"You might think that it's fun up here playing guitars, but it's work," explained Durham. "The fun part is getting to open up for your childhood heros." He went on to then mentioned that a few months ago, Black Lab opened up for Throwing Muses. (Crowd cheers.) "Now we get to open up for Tanya Donelly." (Even louder cheers). The next song, "Time Ago," transformed the dance floor at Slim's into prom night, with couples swaying to the tender ballad. Though not as sweetened as the recorded version, the live version was chock full of emotion as Durham gritted out lines like "don't you remember love," for maximum emotional impact.
Black Lab are on tour in support of their new release "Your Body Above Me" out on DGC. You'd be wise to check them out when they play in a city near you. You won't be disappointed! Visit their website at www.rockweb.com/bands/blacklab (soon to be www.blacklab.sf.ca.us) to sample their sound and order the new CD. Visit the photo gallery and archive of tonight's show (available in the coming weeks).
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