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Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
Setlist (courtesy donnabase.com)
Love Is The Only Thing, Ancient Arms, Movin' On, Voice In My Head, Tides Of Time, Ones You Love, Positive Friction, Living In Babylon, Born To Run, Way Back When, When Love Comes Around, 40 Days & 40 Nights, Do My Thing, Standing Room Only, Current Theme>Cherry-O Baby>Current Theme, Family Picture
Encore: Seņor, Oh Ma>Mother>Oh Ma
Welcome to NY. Now go home.
My first Donna show of 2003 was my least favorite one so far, and that had nothing to do with the band's performance and everything to do with the majority of the people I had the misfortune of being surrounded by in the oversold Bowery Ballroom. In most of the places in this venue from which I tried to enjoy the show, people seemed more interested in talking and drinking than they did in actually listening to the music. Check out the recording of this show and you'll hear exactly what I mean.
My wife and I got a babysitter and she joined me for only the second time; by now she was figuring out that my interest in Donna the Buffalo was no passing obsession. Railroad Earth opened with an energetic set that was well-received. I hadn't seen or heard them before and was pleasantly surprised that they captured my interest enough to actually get me to dance.
After their set we staked out a decent spot near the front of the stage on the Tara side. Unfortunately, this was near the entrance to the adjoining bar, and so as soon as the band launched into Love Is The Only Thing, the space we were in was flooded by drunk people who felt it was their God-given right to get a spot on the rail regardless of the few hundred people who were already there. Welcome to NY.
After some dumb chick spilled her beer on us I figured it wasn't worth it to try to stay up front so we left to find a different vantage point. Unfortunately there weren't any that weren't already occupied. I wouldn't have minded being way in the back, but the conversations were so loud back there I was literally having a hard time hearing the band. I spent most of the first half of the set moving from place to place and so I can't really tell you how well most songs were played. I'm always a fan of the songs Dr. Jim sings, however, and was glad to hear Born to Run for the first time. This turned out to be only a hint of what he had in mind for later in the evening.
Fortunately, shortly after that things took a major turn for the better. 40 Days and 40 Nights lead to some wild dancing, which continued into the zydeco of Do My Thing. As the dancers did their thing, some room opened up, and I found my place among them. Standing Room Only was an entirely accurate description, and so the choice of song was appropriate.
The rarity of the night, the cover of Cherry-O Baby, was sandwiched in the middle of Current Theme. While it was nice to hear, honestly, I didn't recognize it at the time. Family Picture closed out the set in an upbeat fashion.
The encore was most definitely the highlight of the night for me. It started out a little ugly--while Jeb was making a few comments about the impending war in Iraq, someone heckled him by yelling "Kill the bastards!" to which Jeb replied "I guess it's a little too complicated to talk about here."
But the chosen song was Senor, which Jim belted out with all his heart, and the band equaled his emotion with the intensity of their playing. This would have been an outstanding way to end the show, but instead they played a 20-minute Oh Ma. In the middle of it, Jim sang the lyrics to the John Lennon tune Mother. Tara's fiddle playing shone throughout, and to me singlehandedly saved the night from being a complete exercise in frustration.
I left the Bowery happy with the band's performance, but vowing never to return to the venue. Nine months later, I changed my mind, came back to the Bowery to see Donna again, and had a completely excellent time from start to finish. Go figure.