ORCHESTRA MORPHINE, at the Phoenix, May 5. Tickets: $17. Attendance: 250. Rating: N
Let’s draft a new musical law. When a seminal member of your band — say, the guy who writes all the songs, sings and plays the bass in a guitarless trio — dies, your band dies with him, new record in the can or not.
We could allow for some exceptions. A dead keyboard player is OK. We could even let a dead percussionist slide. In the case of an AC/DC, where all that’s required to carry on is the substitution of a slightly less self-destructive sound-alike singer, it’s business as usual. But leader? No way.
And another thing. When the key selling feature of your should-be-defunct-by-now band is its simplicity of sound and comely growl, achieved by using drums, bass and horns, expanding yourself into an orchestra to tour should also henceforth be outlawed.
What the fuck are the surviving members of Morphine thinking? It’s terribly unfortunate that Dana Colley and Billy Conway suddenly lost Morphine leader Mark Sandman, especially on the heels of recording a disc as excellent as The Night.
But the notion of taking one last kick at the can on the road with a full-on outfit of singers, horn players and others is ridiculous and vulgar and does nothing to sanctify Sandman’s highly evolved musical vision.
At an appropriately empty Phoenix Friday, everything coming from the stage was sweetness and light, and absolutely hurl-inducing. There was no faulting the additional players or the music — both were solid. But how, exactly, do these people know that this is how Sandman would have wanted it? Short of conjuring his spirit at a seance, it’s pretty much anyone’s guess.
Not only did Orchestra Morphine, as they were billed, taint lingering memories of Sandman live (make that alive) and at full-tilt, but they attempted to convince us that their little jaunt was some kind of treat for us fans. Next time, spare us the favours.