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Published: 2014/03/07

Deer Tick Bring Vanessa Carlton, Rarities to Stripped Down American Songbook Show

Deer Tick got some help from Vanessa Carlton and treated fans to a few rarities during last night’s American Songbook performance at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room. The band stuck to an uncharacteristically stripped down setup that saw frontman John McCauley take up an amplified acoustic guitar, while keyboardist Rob Crowell switched between baby grand piano and organ.

Deer Tick got going with “The Rock” and “The Dream’s In The Ditch,” a pair of tunes off their 2013 release Negativity (the latter of which was penned by guitarist Ian O’Neil). The set continued with more songs from the album, including a version of “In Our Time” that featured a sit in from McCauley’s wife Vanessa Carlton, who performed on the album version of the song. Bassist Chris Ryan and drummer Dennis Ryan also left the stage for “Big House,” leaving just McCauley, O’Neil and Crowell to perform the tune.

Interestingly, the band used their semi-acoustic setup to sink their teeth into a number of tracks from their debut album, War Elephant (essentially a solo acoustic release from McCauley), including “Long Time,” “Not So Dense,” “Diamond Rings 2007,” “Baltimore Blues No. 1,” “These Old Shoes” and “Ashamed.” McCauley even went back to his roots for “Christ Jesus,” playing a solo acoustic version of the song toward the end of the set.

The night also included some levity to go with the often somber music. At one point, McCauley joked that the show was similar to Nirvana’s famed MTV Unplugged set, noting that they should have opened with an acoustic “All Apologies.” He also teased “Layla” before making a remark about Eric Clapton’s appearance on the same program, and the band even sang “Happy Birthday” to a longtime fan named Marcus that was present in the audience. McCauley quipped that Dennis Ryan liked the song so much that the band listened to 40 different renditions of it on their way to the city.

Finally, the show began to wrap up with a cover of Paul Westerberg’s “Mr. Cigarette.” However the band was not yet finished, as they returned to the stage for a surprise encore of yet another War Elephant track, “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin).”

Deer Tick will continue their tour tonight with a show at The Hollow in Albany, NY.

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