TVD Live Shots:
Crash Test Dummies
at the O2 Kentish
Town Forum, 6/10

Are the Crash Test Dummies the most misunderstood band from the ’90s? They very well could be. Often pigeonholed as a one-hit-wonder, this band is anything but. I like to think of them as the Faith No More of AOR (Adult Oriented Rock). They are weird, witty, lyrical geniuses and, most importantly, incredible songwriters and storytellers. Faith No More, and especially Mike Patton, share many of these same attributes; they’re just much more aggressive in their approach. Ironically enough, a guy was standing next to me at the show that night wearing a Faith No More t-shirt and he was there with his son; both are massive fans. That speaks volumes regarding the Dummies fanbase who came out in droves to see a band that hasn’t played a gig in London for nearly two decades.

This tour is a celebration of both the band’s 30th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of their sophomore, landmark release from 1993, God Shuffled His Feet. This album would go on to sell close to 10 million copies around the globe and introduce the world to the hauntingly gorgeous harmonies and fairy tale soundscapes that sounded like no other. Their breakthrough success delivered several hits, most notably a song with a chorus that has no actual words in the form of “Mmm, mmm, mmm,” from a masterpiece of an album. But the pressure would soon be on for the follow-up and a repeat performance.

Anyone who discovered the band during either of the first two records, and stuck with them for the next two, understands the depth and complexity of not only the clever lyrics and the vivid stories they unleash but the uniqueness of the overall sound. A Worm’s Life was released in 1996 and pushed the band into a heavier, more guitar-driven direction. While the real fans got it, I think much of the fair-weather fans had already moved on.

For me, it was the fourth album, Give Yourself a Hand, which became a favorite. This one found the band leaning into electronica with the same sense of eclectic, weird pop hooks and soulful grooves. This is what can happen when you unleash the restrictions and let a band go crazy with their ideas, (which is rumored to be the freedom the label gave the band), and it’s brilliant. There were two songs from this album that made this setlist; “A Cigarette is All You Get” and “A Little Something.” Both are fantastic songs and sounded awesome live, but I was really really really hoping to hear “Keep a Lid on Things,” which I think is not only the best song on that album but overall one of the best songs they’ve got in their arsenal.

God Shuffled His Feet was played in its entirety, and there were several other songs peppered into the setlist pulling selectively from the band’s eight studio albums. (Yeah, if you didn’t know, they have eight!) God Shuffled His Feet of course sounded spectacular, and the album’s depth holds up beautifully nearly three decades on. While “Mmm, mmm, mmm” is the biggest hit, it’s not the best song on the record. That honor goes to “Swimming In Your Ocean” followed by the quirky genius that is “How Does A Duck Know.” Follow that up with “Afternoons and Coffee Spoons” and the title track and you have the Dummies at their finest.

Brad Robert’s voice should be considered a national Canadian treasure, and Ellen Reid is the perfect complement adding her angelic harmonies. Reid took over the lead on a couple of songs and was the biggest personality on stage that night. I hope that the band continues to tour, and with any luck, maybe we’ll get a new album. They seemed to be having quite a bit of fun on stage this evening, with countless smiles and glances of “yeah, we are a fucking great band” between them. I was in awe of the gig, the songs, and how great everything sounded. It was a constant battle to stop watching as a fan and try to get some good shots to capture the magic of the performance. Now I’m trying to figure out a way to get to another gig on this tour—stay tuned.

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