We Know It’s Only Rock N’ Roll But We Like It


HAIL, HAIL ROCK N’ ROLL: M. Ward, Trocadero, Friday [Photo: TIFFANY YOON]

meAVATAR2.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER The first time M. Ward performed at the Trocadero, back in 2004, he was low man on the totem pole of an inspired three-headed bill that included Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Three acclaimed solo albums of languid torch-folk later, an opening slot at the Tower with Norah Jones, not to mention a turn through town with She & Him (Ward’s endearing duet act with Zooey Deschanel), he’s selling out the Troc all by his lonesome. Such was the case Friday night

Nearly as impressive was his ability to stop all conversations in their tracks with just the souful wheeze of his harmonica and a handful of downcast guitar chords. Such was the case when Ward finally ambled onstage long after the loud, jacked-up dream-pop of opening act The Vivian Girls (think the Shaggs with talent and a lifetime supply of Red Bull) stopped echoing in the audience’s ears, only to be replaced by the moderately deafening chatter of a capacity Troc crowd conversing with itself. But when the man stepped up to the microphone — his trademark plaid western shirt crowned by a shock of coffee-black hair — quietly strumming the intro to “Fuel For Fire” and blowing his harp like a lonesome train whistle, you could have heard a proverbial pin drop as a thousand ears pricked up to hear his dreamy, moonlit voice.

“Hold Time”, the lushly ambient title track to his swell new album, and the wonderful “Lullabye + Exile” were also given the reductive Man In Black treatment, before Ward was joined by his fluent four-piece backing band. Launching into the T. Rex-esque “Never Had Nobody But You”, Ward and co. reprised the better part of Hold Time over the course of the next hour, with occasional forays into older material such as the boogie woogie kiss-off of “Big Boat” and a raucous, piano-pounding stomp through Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” Ward’s abilities as an interpreter have always rivaled his capacity as a songwriter (check out his must-hear cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”), so it made perfect sense that he would encore with his sleepy-eyed reading of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” which, like so much of his music, sounds like gospel music for atheists. Amen to that.

HEAR YE: M. Ward Hold Time

M. WARD: Let’s Dance


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