PERNICE BROTHERS with the KinGSBURY MANX and A NORTHERN CHORUS at Lee's Palace, October 12. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 200. Rating: NNN
the way people were gabbing during the Kingsbury Manx guitar duels, it seemed like the Pernice Brothers and anyone who wanted to hear them might be in for trouble. I've seen Joe Pernice perform entire shows at a whisper level, in spite of the loud chatter, as if he could silence the room through sheer force of will. Of course he can't, and usually gets drowned out.
Luckily, he's come to his senses in the three years or so since he was here last, and now performs at an audible volume -- which is especially fortuitous since it's been about three years since he released anything worth hearing.
There were, admittedly, a couple of bright spots on the Big Tobacco (Glitterhouse) album, but the new disc, The World Won't End (Ashmont), is really the best thing he's done since the Scud Mountain Boys' classic Massachusetts (Sub Pop) album back in 96.
And while the additional colour and texture of the string and percussion ensembles used on the studio sessions were sorely missed live, the strongly melodic tunes held up remarkably well, thanks largely to Pernice's accompanists, keyboardist Laura Stein, bassist Thom Monahan, guitarist Peyton Pinkerton and drummer Mike Belitsky, on loan from the Sadies.
The problem Pernice ran into as the evening wore on wasn't with his compositions or musicianship, but, rather, the pacing and mood variation. For most of the show, the world-weary frontman was locked in a groove of forlorn resignation, and the fact that he chose to replay each bad breakup in the same key set to the same mid-tempo shuffle made for a terribly monotonous presentation.
He got the biggest response of the night for his show-closing solo acoustic take on Bum Leg, not necessarily because it was the best-written song he'd put forth, but because it just sounded different.