Live review of Cass McCombs at the Larimer Lounge in Denver - Reverb

Live review: Cass McCombs @ the Larimer Lounge

Cass McCombs played an understated alt-country show at the Larimer Lounge on Friday. Photo courtesy of the artist's Facebook.

Cass McCombs played an understated alt-country show at the Larimer Lounge on Friday. Photo courtesy of the artist's Facebook.

“This is the song where I play the keyboards,” uttered an austere Cass McCombs about three songs into his set last Friday night at the Larimer Lounge.

“Uh…,” he followed, with a grin, as the instrument made no sound when he hit it, “Could you turn the keyboard on, please?”

The request was Dickensian, an came across as a light, quiet and funny jab — pretty typical of McCombs’ stage personality through the show. This was before he and the other four band members dived into “County Line,” one tune that begs for comparison to Procol Harum with its organ base. Its intimate and lonely beauty matched the cooling summer night perfectly, as it carried on a slight breeze throughout the small club and out onto the back patio, as the small crowd inside swayed unanimously close to the stage.

The band then broke into an incongruous version of “Lionkiller,” with an almost furious Feelies-meets-Doors sound, that continued through “I Cannot Lie.” They alternated slow, sparse tunes with a raucous, psychedelic, even Grateful Dead sound for another 80 minutes.

McCombs, with a moptop shock piled mostly to one side of his head, recalled a young Mitch Easter more and more as the set progressed, and the southern ‘80s indie-twang the band laid down beneath his understated vocals made the comparison hard to resist.

“Dreams-Come-True-Girl” was a mixture of Rufus Wainwright and Billy Bragg, with lyrics that Jonathan Richman could easily have penned. It was followed later by an “I Cannot Lie” that hinted at Leonard Cohen in its sparse, pregnant lyricism and softspoken melodies.

Later, during “When the Bible Was Wrote,” the band entered a full-on Feelies-driven blast that inspired an almost involuntary bounce in the audience, but didn’t last long enough to bleed over into an annoying jam.

They closed with drawn out version of “Harmonia” that perfectly emphasized McCombs’ tendency towards late ‘60s Velvet Underground psychedelia, and that seemed to only make the audience pine for more, before clearing the stage.

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Billy Thieme is a Denver-based writer, an old-school punk and a huge follower of Denver’s vibrant local music scene. Follow Billy’s explorations at DenverThread.com, and his giglist at Gigbot.