Last Saturday, on a delightful Georgia spring evening, the Irish folk-pop band Little Green Cars played at Vinyl in midtown's Center Stage complex. But first, Minneapolis' John Mark Nelson performed.
I really liked the opener. They played well-crafted indie rock songs with an occasional funky touch without sounding contrived or derivative. And people from the midwest are so polite - Nelson went out of his way several times to sincerely tell the audience how pleased he was that we were there and how happy he was to be playing for us. It was a good set by some nice people, and I wish them the very best.
Dublin's Little Green Cars write anthemic folk-rock songs in the tradition of The Head And The Heart and The Lumineers, and like those two bands, have attracted a number of ardent followers. I once heard someone (I don't remember who) from The Grateful Dead once say that the Dead's music was a lot like licorice - not everyone likes it, but those that do like it a lot. It's the same way, I think, with anthemic folk-rock bands.
They're very good with their harmonies and have two fine lead vocalists and at least two good backup singers, but their problem is that large parts of most of their songs consists of everybody singing in unison as loudly and enthusiastically as they can, which doesn't really leave them anywhere to go from there. After Spinal Tap turns their amps up to "11," is anyone really content to hear them play at a mere "10" again, much less "9"? It's the same with the four-part harmonies - after four sincere Dubliners sing their hearts out in unison, the solo passages can sound a bit uninspired by contrast. I don't mean to complain, and there was certainly nothing unpleasant about their show, but a little more variety and a little less formula in their songwriting would have been appreciated. All of that good-spirited enthusiasm actually got exhausting after a while.
Still, it was a nice set and they seem like nice people. It only took them about 30 seconds to come back on stage after their encore break, and they ended the show by walking off the stage and playing unamplified in the middle of the audience. Nice.