Daniel Johnston, Crescent Ballroom, 2/3/13

Categories: Last Night

Melissa Fossum
Daniel Johnston and band performing live at the Crescent Ballroom.
With the band handling the musical heavy lifting, Johnston concentrated on vocals. The mic stand in his massive paws, as he sang about "The Tribulation" in "Bloody Rainbow," and he took time to fondly recall MTV ("MTV -- it's the best!") and when Atlantic Records "dumped him." (He was famously offered a deal by Elektra, as well, one he turned down because he believed Metallica was possessed by Satan.) Johnston seemed most confident during the rock 'n' roll numbers; "Speeding Motorcycle," with its Beach Boys pop and message of automotive transcendence, was a clear winner. He stomped and hollered as the band bashed away.

Closing with "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances," Johnston wished everyone a good night (or rather, a variation of "Merry Christmas"), and reminded the audience of the song's source material, Ephesians 4:26. "It's in the Bible," he said. "It's hard to find a good Bible anymore."

It can be hard to figure out where the real Johnston begins and the legend ends, but in his songs, perhaps they are one and the same. He's a raw nerve, a man chased by demons and rejected by angels. He's sometimes hard to watch, and other times, through a pure pop music miracle, you can figure out exactly where he's coming from. The crowd loved him -- even if he wasn't quite buying it.


"Poor You"

With band:
"Bloody Rainbow"
"Silly Love"
"Mountain Top"
"Space Ducks"
"You Hurt Me"
"The Story of An Artist"
"Living Life"
"Casper the Friendly Ghost"
"Speeding Motorcycle"
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances"
"Life in Vain"
"True Love Will Find You in the End"

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Daniel Johnston, featuring Patrick Carrie, Michael Krassner, Jim Adkins, Jeff Bufano, Chris Corak, Megyn Neff, Aaron Wendt, and Wil Hendricks
The Crowd: A blend of older indie fans -- the kind of folks who might actually have owned some of those self-produced cassettes Johnston made in the '80s -- and younger kids drawn in by The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
Overheard in the Crowd: "The Super Bowl was today, right?"

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Location Info

Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

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