Variety, March 26, 1986

Concert Review:

Violent Femmes/Leo Kottke
Carnegie Hall, N.Y.
[No concert date indicated]

      The good news is that the Violent Femmes, a relatively esoteric outfit by commercial standards, attracted enough impressionable teenagers to this SRO concert to make a roomful of record marketing execs drool.

      The now for the bad news:  the crowd was so rude, it almost stopped the show.

      Audience behavior was surprising because the Femmes, a male trio from Milwaukee, are nothing like rock bands that normally inspire rowdiness.  When they took the stage, lead vocalist Gordon Gano accompanied himself a softly amplified guitar, while Brian Ritchie played an acoustic bass guitar and Victor DeLorenzo executed a simple snare drum rhythm with brushes.

      The tune was "Country Death Song," and anguished tale of infanticide that combines a disturbingly bleak outlook with an underhanded dose of black humor.  The adolescent fascination with morbid topics that's behind the continuing popularity of the Doors seems to be one key to the Femmes' appeal.

      A keyboardist and reed/flute player later emerged to beef up the sound for newer selections, including "Faith," a standard blues progression energized by Gano's cheerleading.  Recent material also tends toward the folksy with "Breakin' Hearts," and upbeat vocal harmony number in the Everly Bros. tradition.

      Audience's enthusiasm reached the bursting point when crowds of kids pressed to the lip of the stage and leaped up to dance, an activity that Carnegie authorities won't tolerate.  Its momentum broken, the concert deteriorated rapidly before it ended.

      Leo Kottke, who's about to release his first album in three years on the new Private Music label, opened with a brief set of virtuoso guitar solos that ranged from bluegrass-tinged original numbers to a faithful recreation of Jorma Kaukonen's familiar "Embryonic Journey."  With a boyishness that belies his veteran status (he's been recording since 1969), Kottke remains an engaging performer and technically astounding fingerpicker.  He also got surprisingly polite treatment from this rambunctious crowd, probably because he's a guest player on the Violent Femmes' new Slash/WB album, The Blind Leading The Naked.  -- Dima

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