Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on May 26th 2010 11:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
For Okkervil, an alt-country sextet out of Austin, the benefits are obvious. Working with Erickson is a chance for the young, slightly pretentious, conceptually minded crew to cast its lot with a frazzled genius, one of rock's true eccentric outsiders.
Tuesday night, Okkervil leader Will Sheff was a ra-ra-Roky cheerleader, introducing the tunes, pumping up the crowd and engaging the show's supposed star in awkward, obviously rehearsed stage patter. "Are you happy to be here in New York, Roky?" Sheff asked at one point, eliciting no response from the man whose aloofness and fragility he worked hard to conceal.
What Roky gets from Okkervil is security. Whether playing old material or tunes from the just-released 'True Love Cast Out All Evil,' the comeback album he cut with Sheff and company, Erickson lacked the wherewithal to go it alone. He appeared unsure of himself, and as he sang, he frequently looked back at Sheff, as if seeking reassurance. His behavior was understandable, of course, given that no major rocker, save for maybe Brian Wilson, has survived as hellish a slog through drug abuse and mental illness.
For all his travails, Erickson functions remarkably well. He opened Tuesday's set with 'Night of the Vampire,' a dark, moody tune made all the creepier by Okkervil's Halloween organ sound. Moving into 'Two-Headed Dog,' Erickson dredged from his throat a mighty Southern screech -- a deeper, craggier version of the voice he used back in the '60s, when he fronted the Texas psych-rock outfit 13th Floor Elevators.
Okkervil tends to specialize in indie-flavored Americana, but propping up Roky, the band manages credible hard rock and heavy blues. 'Don't Slander Me' was a trashy rager, while the blazing 'I Walked With a Zombie' found Sheff singing his back-up part, "He walked with a zombie," gleeful and crisp, the opposite of Erickson's lax lead. The band was less handy with Little Richard's 'Ooh My Soul,' but Roky delivered his lines with strained intensity, like John Fogerty hoisting a pallet of cinder blocks.
After closing with 'Goodbye Sweet Dreams,' the best song on their collaborative album, and the Elevators tune 'Reverberation,' Erickson and Okkervil returned for a song Sheff couldn't wait to tell the audience Roky had written at the tender age of 15. He's enamored of the mythology of the man, and as he bashed out 'You're Gonna Miss Me,' Erickson's enduring 1966 proto-punk classic, Sheff leapt unashamedly into rock-fan geekdom.
Erickson, meanwhile, remained a mountain of mystery. He once believed aliens were trying to inhabit his body, and if that were true, who could blame them? Anything for a glimpse inside that noggin.