THE JAYHAWKS, at the Horseshoe, May 8. Tickets: free. Attendance: 350. Rating: NN
T he obnoxiously loud chatter coming from unfamiliar faces between gulps of beer continued unabated as the Jayhawks ran through another bland tune from their dismal new Smile (Sony) album.
If the VIP laminates worn both by greying executives in uncomfortably casual attire and chipper mall employees weren't indication enough that this was an industry function, the reflexive applause that followed each number the Jayhawks completed -- satisfactorily or not -- cleared up the doubt.
Oblivious to the lack of attention shown them, the Jayhawks didn't so much play the new songs as solve them like tricky algebra equations, working through their parts with furrowed brows and the odd blank gaze.
Evidently, there's not much to smile about on the Smile album. For the Jayhawks, this was work, and the company people were on hand to see if the new product suits market requirements.
Judging by the pair of knuckleheads playing spot-the-swipe and shouting song titles like Down By The River and The Weight whenever a lick sounded oddly familiar, the merchandising potential of a take-home Jayhawks trivia game could be extremely promising.
It was only after frontman-by-default Gary Louris began dipping into the back-catalogue riches that this staged event felt like entertainment. I never thought I'd look forward to hearing songs from the Jayhawks' lackluster Sound Of Lies album, but after the horribly plastic Somewhere In Ohio -- which started with programmed beats and got worse -- just about anything would've sounded good.
When Louris snuck a third glance at his wristwatch, the time had come to haul out the closing crowd-pleaser, Blue, before splitting. All in a night's work.