Within two weeks, I got to see quite a contrast in concert going experiences. Exactly two weeks before, I attended Jason Lytle's headlining show at the Basement in Columbus, Ohio. Although a small venue, everyone was there to see Lytle, knew most of the material and was really into his set.
Last night, Lytle returned to the Detroit area, opening for label mate Neko Case at the beautiful Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac. In this instance, he seemed to be playing to a room of people largely unfamiliar with his work, both solo and with his former band Grandaddy. The crowd was appreciative and seemed to give him and his band a good reception, but it's such a different experience seeing your favorite artist open a show. You almost feel like you're the only one there who even knows their music or who they are. It didn't ruin my enjoyment of his fantastic, but much too short set by any means, it was just a much more subdued evening than the show in Columbus.
I knew going in the setlist would be trimmed down considerably from the headline show. The question was which songs would be cut. In Columbus, he played for nearly 80 minutes covering 15 songs in a mix of solo material and Grandaddy classics and obscurities. I figured they would shed about 30 minutes off his opening set and was about spot on as he played for about 45 minutes, performing nine songs.
In keeping with Case's more laid back, alt-country material, it seems some of Lytle's more rock oriented and upbeat songs were the victims as Grandaddy classics such as "Chartsengrafs", "Stray Dog And the Chocolate Shake", "Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)" and "AM 180" that were played in Columbus were sadly missing on this night. Thankfully "Levitz" was not one of the cuts as Lytle opened the show with this fan favorite and clearly one of his personal favorites from the Grandaddy days. "Levitz" was just one of three Grandaddy songs performed on this night, with the B-Sides "Our Dying Brains" and "What Can't Be Erased" being the others.
With such limited time, the focus was clearly on promoting material from his first solo CD "Yours Truly, The Commuter" (Anti-) and Lytle and his backing band of Rusty Miller, Rob Murdock and ex-Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch filled out the rest of the set with six tracks off the 2009 release including "Ghost of My old Dog, "Brand New Sun" and "I Am Lost (And the Moment Cannot Last)". The performance of the title track stretches the song out a bit at the opening and end from the recorded version for somewhat of an "extended version". A nice surprise was the addition of "Birds Encouraged Him" which was not performed in Columbus. They closed out their set, as they did in Ohio, with the beautiful "Rollin' Home Alone".
It's a shame Lytle was unable to play a headline show in the Detroit area. With so many great venues, including the Crofoot's own Pike Room, I'm sure he would have drawn a decent crowd. I think there were as many, if not more people, at his spur of the moment acoustic show at Scrummage in Detroit back in April as there were in Columbus and there was little to no promotion of that Scrummage performance. Apparently Grandaddy had more of a following in this area than I realized, though I shouldn't be surprised considering St. Andrew's Hall was pretty well packed when they headlined there in support of "Sumday" back in 2003. Regardless, his set last night was great as always, seemed to go over well with Case's fans and hopefully gained him some new fans in the process.
SETLIST: "Levitz" / "Ghost Of My Old Dog" / "Our Dying Brains" / "Brand New Sun" / "Birds Encouraged Him" / "Yours Truly, The Commuter" / "I Am Lost (And The Moment Cannot Last)" / "What Can't Be Erased" / "Rollin' Home Alone"