The Vegas desert vanished as the American Idol-esque circular stage became the spot on which 12 groups romped their way through Bob Dylan songs on Friday night. The Next Great American Band is off and running, and if you can believe it, none of the participants truly stinks.
Does that make for boring TV? A little bit. But there was enough novelty in the air during the two-hour escapade to keep an ear open. The blond bass player from Tres Bien gave some dubiously inspirational words to kick off the Zimmy fest: “Playing a song by someone who is so intellectual isn’t a challenge, it’s an honor!” Their version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was bubbly and ’60s enough to make you fantasize about Freddy and the Dreamers being the backup band on Bringing It All Back Home.
Here are some highs and lows. Which groups are getting kicked off this week? Weigh in.
THE IRRITATING BITS:
Denver‘s hokey choice of a modern zoot suit, as well as his non-ironic Paul Shaffer shtick (Dicko: “take that clown suit on a one way trip to the charity shop.”)
Johnny Rzeznik saying that some bands need to be more original, when his own Goo Goo Dolls started off as a a virtual Replacements tribute group.
Sheila E. declaring that Franklin Bridge would win the entire series, and then changing her mind when Sixwire did their peaceful easy feeling take on “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
The singer for the Hatch, the Brooklyn outfit that lives and rehearses together in a loft space separated by curtained beds, had an icky “Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy” puss on when he was rocking through “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”
Rocket, the women-only punk pop gang, thrashed through “Heaven’s Door,” with commando force. But the background vocalists were made to squeal “Knock, knock/knock, knock” for a refrain. Who’s there? Pitchy. Pitchy who? Woefully pitchy lead singer, that’s who.
Even the judges mentioned it. The Light of Day singer has to lose the falsetto – unless they’re covering a Vertical Horizon doo-wop tune.
Johnny Rzeznik‘s angle-assed haircut.
THE FUN STUFF:
Light of Doom‘s yen to rock. Playing for jokers and thieves, they tore it up on “All Along the Watchtower.” But momma Sheila and daddy Dicko felt compelled to admonish the 13-year lead yelper for his bare torso. You’d never catch Daughtry showing his nipples on TV.
Dot Dot Dot‘s dedication to stage roaming. They’re a glam ‘n’ goth combo who drink too much Red Bull. During “Like a Rolling Stone,” the singer circled the place like a complete unknown who wanted his 15 minutes to begin asap, leaping onto the drums at one point. Dicko deemed him a “hyperactive emo leprechaun,” and the singer smirked as his judges chastised parts of his show.
The Clark Brothers rolled through “Maggie’s Farm” like a mash up of Nickel Creek and Kings of Leon, and Old No. 7 brought some muttonchop twang to “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Fiddles could never be allowed to win this contest, could they?
Guitars Heaved Into the Air: both the Doom and the Dots made their axes fly – wonder if Dylan will try that tonight in Chicago? http://bobdylan.com/moderntimes/tour/main.html
Next Friday: The bands tackle Elton John songs. Will anyone do “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”?